Mozilla have announced the release of Firefox Mobile 1.0 (named Fennec) for phones running Maemo.  Based on the same engine as the hugely popular Firefox 3.6, it promises to have familiar features for the mobile version.  Looking at the promotional video (which can be found here)

Mozilla have to say:

Fennec is the codename of Mozilla’s mobile Firefox project. It’s built on the same engine as Firefox 3.6, with extensive changes to optimize performance and user experience on mobile devices.

Firefox for mobile is just like our desktop browser – secure, powerful and customizable. It’s packed with many of the same features including the Awesome Bar, add-ons, Weave Sync and Location-Aware Browsing. Available in more than 30 languages and counting, it’s the most modern mobile Web browser available. Learn more at our Mozilla Mobile page.

http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/mobile/platforms/

After watching the promotional video, I think that Mozilla have considered the needs of the end user (and the practicalities of using a mobile phone) very well.  There is an innovative way of accessing off screen menu’s so that the small displays found on mobile devices can be used fully for the webpage.  Add to that the promise of Firefox add-ins and it looks set to be a very customizable (and popular) mobile browser.  Time will tell, but when it hits Android expect me to be first in line for a copy.

Whilst Firefox moved away from what I wanted in a browser on the Desktop, I am encouraged by the video.  I certainly will be looking forward to a version I can download for the HTC Desire.

So what about Android?

With the popularity of Android phones, it seems strange that it was not released there first.  There is a massive Android user base already, who are apparently hungry for a well known browser that is familiar to the one they use on the desktop.  This is shown in the success Opera Mobile has enjoyed and one look at the comments in the marketplace suggest that it is widely favored over the default browser that is packaged with the users phone.  Speaking as an HTC Desire user, I certainly prefer Opera to the native browser and even though I cannot set it as default, I would much rather use that than the default offering.

So why was Firefox given a Maemo release first? Could it be that in this early development stage they don’t wish to deploy it to a large market risking early bugs destroying their reputation? or is it merely because the Maemo is further down the development line.

Windows Mobile being shunned?

According to the official announcement, Mozilla have stopped development of Firefox for Windows Mobile saying:

Firefox has stopped development for Windows Mobile indefinitely. Thank you to our contributors for their continued support and feedback. The last release for Windows Mobile was 1.1 alpha 1. If Microsoft releases a native development kit for Windows Phone 7, we will consider developing Fennec on the Windows platform again.

https://wiki.mozilla.org/Mobile/Platforms

Its been a very bad week for Microsoft and mobiles and this will merely add to the woes of Microsoft’s mobile strategy which seems to now have all its hopes on Windows Mobile 7, which will be released into a market that is dominated by Android and Apple devices.

It could be argued that in light of the impending new Windows Mobile launch Mozilla are waiting until then, but one has to wonder if further damage will be done to the Windows Mobile brand reputation even before Microsoft has had the chance to tell us it’s what “everyone wants”.  The words “we will consider developing” hardly an endorsement or confidence in the Windows Mobile Platform and the apparent lack of information on a dev kit for it will hardly make for a plethora of apps and choices when Windows Mobile does launch.  Since we have all seen how popular 3rd party applications are with mobile end users, Id say those two comments do not bode well for Microsoft’s basket with all the eggs in.

Let us not forget either about Internet Explorer.  Whilst it’s losing its market share to Firefox (and others) does it not see the worth in producing IE for other platforms?  Apparently not and you can expect if Microsoft does catch on to it being a good idea, it will be far too late to get a foothold on the market, just like I think Windows Mobile will struggle (and fail) when its released this year (allegedly).

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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