Monday, July 28, 2014

A Smartphone in ₹2000 - What is Firefox OS?

Mozilla is all set to sell Firefox OS smartphones that costs $25 (~₹1500) in India.

Who is Mozilla?
Mozilla is to Internet what WHO is to world's health.

Mozilla is a community of "Mozillians" from all over the globe with a common mission - to build a better internet.

Most of us know Mozilla as the non-profit organization behind the mighty web browser - Firefox. But Firefox is just a small part of what Mozilla does. Mozilla plays an active role in promoting the openness of web, bringing down disparity and bridging the digital divide, and empowering citizens all over the world for innovation.

They do this through building products that transform the way we interact with the web, through educating the world about the web, and by influencing policy making in matters related to the web.

A screenshot of the homepage
What is Firefox OS?
Firefox OS is an operating system for your mobile device, an alternative to Android, iOS, Windows, etc.

It is built using the same set of tools that is used to build the web - HTML5 and other open web standards. This makes it easier for people to develop applications for Firefox OS. In fact, any website on the web can become an app on Firefox OS - because they are built using the same tools.

What this means for the end user is that there will be a lot of apps - a lot of apps - that runs on Firefox OS.

How is it different from Android, iOS, etc?
There are differences at multiple levels.

Everything in Firefox OS is a web app. In fact the entire user interface of Firefox OS is a web app. The camera app is a web app. The dialler app is a web app. These are all written in HTML5, css, and javascript, like the websites are written.
In other operating systems, you write apps in different languages, like java, C#, etc. And this brings on the additional complexity of having to know those languages.

Firefox OS needs very little resources. It runs on very low-end phones. The minimum hardware specs required are low, and the cost of devices in turn becomes low.

But the most important unique feature of Firefox OS is that it is adaptive!
3 screenshots of a Firefox OS phone showing how it is adaptive
When you search for soccer, you get all the apps from all over the web related to soccer, and so on.

Cool! Where do I buy a Firefox OS device?
Like all other phones, you buy Firefox OS phones from shops! :D

So, do I need an internet connection always on to run Firefox OS?
No! Actually, there are two kinds of apps in firefox - hosted app, and packaged app.

Packaged apps (like dialler, sms, cut the rope game) work offline (though they can connect to the web if needed). All the resources they need are already downloaded when you download the app initially (or when you buy your phone, in case of default apps).

Hosted apps (like facebook), are hosted at their own websites. Hosted apps are usually used only when the content that is shown in the app is regularly changed online (think of news, social networks, etc).

For all practical purposes, Firefox OS needs internet connection only in the cases the other platforms (android, iOS, etc) need internet - to update the system, to install new apps, to browse the web.

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