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Mozilla has stopped all commercial development on Firefox OS (groups.google.com)
271 points by bpierre on Sept 27, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 330 comments



So we had Jolla, Ubuntu, Mozilla and even Microsoft trying to create a new major player in the mobile OSs market - all pretty much failed to do so.

Is it practically impossible? Are we stuck with Android and iOS forever? This tiny selection of options worries me.


I'm a big supporter of GNU/Linux on the phone.

I don't care if Jolla or Ubuntu don't ever make it as "major" players in the mobile OS world.

I'd be perfectly happy with GNU/Linux mobile software that's as good as the Linux desktop.

I run Linux on my desktop (and laptop), and we're 1% of desktop users. I'd be satisfied with 1% mobile market share. We don't need a billion users, all I want is a hacker-friendly platform, with a good developer community around it (which I think both GNU/Linux on the desktop, and IMO SailfishOS [Jolla] provide).


The fairphone 2 is "fairly" hacker-friendly. The bootloader is not locked. They provide android stripped of google mobile services, and Ubuntu phone is reportedly 70% ported. Sailfish OS could also be an option if either Fairphone or Jolla port it. All of these setups still require binary blobs for firmware, but that's as good as it gets on mobile I think.


> Sailfish OS could also be an option if either Fairphone or Jolla port it.

It seems to have already happened[1].

[1] - https://wiki.merproject.org/wiki/Adaptations/libhybris/Insta...


yes, but it's not an "official" image yet, meaning it won't receive support from the Jolla developers (and is missing some things like the Android app compatibility layer)


When they release a version of it with US 3G/4G bands, it would be an option.


Ideologically, I like Replicant. Actually free-as-in-freedom version of Android, great!

In reality though, it doesn't really work on most of modern phones, and on the ones it works on, there is no WiFi support. And the latest commit on the Replicant git (excluding website changes) is 8 months ago. And it has just one guy committing.

So it didn't catch world's attention, apparently.


The Replicant project wrote a post in August describing work on Replicant 6:

http://blog.replicant.us/2016/08/replicant-6-early-work-upst...

My phone (Galaxy S3) uses Replicant, and I'm quite excited for the upgrade, which will fix a number of rather unfortunate issues. I'm more than willing to make such sacrifices, but it'd be nice (for example) to be able to take videos of my children, which the current version cannot do.

It's not a shortcoming of Replicant---the fact that these issues exist at all demonstrate how much value is placed on user freedom.

Most unfortunate is that few users will be willing to make these sacrifices.


Yeah. But again, it doesn't seem like there is a huge and vibrant developer community inspecting the code, implementing features and fixing bugs; looking at their gitlab and their redmine, it seems like there is almost no activity.

(It's possible I just don't understand the websites; looking at their GitLab and Redmine, I start to understand why is Github so popular; I cannot find anything there :(( )


Android is Linux on the phone. It's Linux kernel with stuff on top. Check out Replicant. It removes most of the stuff you might find objectionable.


>> Android is Linux on the phone. It's Linux kernel with stuff on top.

Android is just the Linux kernel on the phone -- that's the issue I have with it. It comes with none of the other stuff that makes GNU/Linux great: philosophically/socially it's different, but on a technical level it's missing rest of the GNU/Linux stack (e.g. package management, and the plethora of developer tools -- including languages and libraries). The GNU/Linux stack is developed by a diverse ecosystem of contractors, big and small business, and non-for-profits (e.g. Red Hat, Intel, Mozilla, Samsung, Canonical, Document Foundation, Fujitsu, Google, etc). Android is largely controlled by one company.


The lack of package management and standard kernel/modules is a huge issue from Android. It keeps it from being truly open. I wrote a post about this a while ago:

http://penguindreams.org/blog/android-fragmentation/

The TL;DR, Android needs to be fixed so ASOP can be installed on any phone, just like Linux/Windows. The current state is bizarre for what's essentially now a general purpose operating system.


I think you mean AOSP (Android Open Source Project) not ASOP (the linked article makes the same typo).


Wow...I even spelled it out at one point and still screwed it up while abbreviating it! Thanks man. I'll fix it. :)


I habitually think of it as 'aesop' of the fables fame in my head, even though I know it's inaccurate. Hard habit to break. Like eye-terator instead of it-erator.


And with Brillo and Fuchsia, Google is removing whatever is left of it.


What is Brillo taking away? I thought it was more a standardization of the HAL and Linux kernel?


Imagine Android with the Java Frameworks replaced by a similar C++ Framework, using Android IPC (not UNIX), bionic libc and Android's own Linux kernel fork.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig9GKAFzDxQ

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCthvmTSlmIcMH93LIJNe-2w/sea...


Is Tizen any closer to this?


I honestly don't know what's happening with Tizen these days -- Samsung has invested money into it, but it has (IMO) very little to show. Again, my bias is showing, but I think Jolla (SailfishOS) and Canonical (Ubuntu Touch) have achieved infinitely more with smaller teams and less capital.


From what I've read, you want as little as possible to do with Tizen:

https://what.thedailywtf.com/topic/15001/enlightened


Taking away those things doesn't make it not Linux. Adding those things wouldn't make it not Android. These guys could have had the best of both worlds.


He didn't say anything about it not being Linux; he said it isn't GNU/Linux, which it isn't, the GNU parts are missing.


A lot of the things that he mentioned (package management, even development tools) don't necessarily require a GNU stack.


It is, and it isn't. Android has controversial patches on Linux that aren't merged upstream. They are more significant than say the patches Linux distributions maintain in their releases.

If anything, Android is a fork of Linux.


And the android UI framework is still garbage, having to freeze and thaw activity state just to handle screen rotation is the most insane thing I have ever heard of. Hell, even the various Symbians handled this better (I loved my Symbian S60 devices, but programming for them was an exercise in frustration).


I'm assuming you're referring to the behavior where activities are restarted on rotation and onSaveInstanceState() gets called.

This behavior is the default because it prevents developers from needing to think about their UI changing dimensions (including runtime screen size/density changes!)... but it's certainly not required by the framework.

If you set android:configChanges="orientation" in your application manifest, your app won't be automatically restarted. However, you'll become responsible for swapping out any UI resources at that point.

(Keep in mind that Android lets you declare completely different UI layouts and drawables for different device configurations, so depending on how you wrote your app, you may need to re-inflate part of your UI.)

Or just implement onSaveInstanceState() and let the OS do everything for you.


>This behavior is the default because it prevents developers from needing to think about their UI changing dimensions (including runtime screen size/density changes!)... but it's certainly not required by the framework.

No, the framework uses it to let you automatically handle those changes, the reason it's there is because early Android devices were weak (obviously) and the pipe dream was that we'd write apps that didn't mind randomly getting their processes killed as long as we used onSaveInstanceState... man-centuries later and it's clear the dream didn't pan out. I wonder how many billions of NPEs it was worth to be able to say Android does what iOS don't (multitasking) back then.

And that android:configChanges line misses out on many other triggers that cause you to need to handle onSaveInstanceState (like someone plugging in a keyboard). Even with every flag set for configChanges you still need to implement onSaveInstanceState for process death to work as intended.

The Android framework really is garbage. I might be biased though, I spent the day trying to trick it into not going to 7(!) FPS because our designers had the audacity to request we translate a video in an animation (and don't get me started on the insanity that is animations on Android [the X ways we've now gotten to do it which all have their own limitations]).


Yet both Windows Mobile and iOS handle this flawlessly without having to wire all sorts of extra code up. Sure, it's possible to do it with Android, but it's a hell of a lot more work than any other platform.


Android is not GNU


I think @maheart knows that and that is his main problem with Android.


Not really, there are lots of APIs missing from the NDK, UNIX IPC being a set of them.


Unfortunately it's also JVM [edit: Java] on the phone.


It is a fork of the Java language with its own AOT/JIT compiler, nothing to do with a certified JVM.


Larry Ellison doesn't seem to agree with your "nothing to do with [...] JVM" assertion, to the tune of a 9.3 billion USD lawsuit, and indeed Google itself is developing Fuchsia with no java stack at all in it.

Moreover, it's not Linux if you have to use a Java API to do anything useful.


Nothing to do from the point of view of the headaches that brings to those of us that care about Java.

And everything to do regarding being a fork on the Java ecosystem, and I side with Oracle.

It remains to be seen if Brillo or Fuchsia will have any relevance on the market, even when coming from Google.


and I'm not a java lover as you can tell, but I can super-appreciate that for java guys, having some fork that tries to be java-not-java and confuses the ecosystem, is a pain in the butt. Be java fully committed and move it forward, or leave java well alone. Don't sit there and create a java version of the Python 2/3 mess that screws everyting up. I can totally appreciate that. Well put.


The lawsuit was not about the VM.


Look. The gist of the comment is that Android forces you to use java, or at the very least, a java API. You can dance around semantics as much as you like, but it will not change the fact that, unlike Linux, Android is intricately interlinked with java.


It's a subset of Java, with a totally different compiler, JIT, etc. Newer versions don't even use Dalvic, but compile/cache the bytecode into ELF/machine code.


What does it matter what's underneath? At the visible layer which most of us have to use, it's java.


If you haven't already, please consider the Pyra. It's a full Linux desktop in a phone-ish format and supports SIM cards for voice calling and text.

https://pyra-handheld.com/boards/pages/pyra/


You suggest using that monstrosity as a phone?


Yes, of course. I don't remember the last time I made a voice call, so I don't care at all about that functionality.

Really, all I care about is receiving SMS.


This looks like a rehashed Casiopeia. (Actually the Casiopeia looks considerably sleeker in comparison.) This is the clunkiest-looking device I've seen in a long time. At some point can we acknowledge that shrinking a laptop to be palm-sized doesn't make for a good form factor? A tiny keyboard and a resistive 720p 5" touchscreen sounds like a terrible experience. The picture shows it literally rendering a standard desktop UI as if that's appropriate for a pocket device.

Also, does this thing even receive SMS? The page makes no mention of phone support.

http://www.pdastock.com/Casio-Cassiopeia-A-21-651.html


A full Linux desktop screen wouldn't be used for long periods of time. The ideal situation is that we, as hackers, can build our own mobile UI free from the clutches of Apple and Google, and that you can just plug it into HDMI anywhere you are and get a full computer, which is something you can't do with any phone currently.

To your question regarding SMS, there are already people working on it. A Vim plugin sounds especially delicious.

https://pyra-handheld.com/boards/threads/how-to-send-receive...


By full computer, you mean something of 'low-end chromebook' spec. Usable mobile power management and thermal design isn't really going to achieve what you get with a good laptop or desktop.


Very true! This hardly holds up to, say, a CAD$600 laptop. But, it'll be very handy to take traveling around the world or to visit my parents/nephew to play some Minecraft.


You want a free-as-in-freedom portable device so you can play a closed source Microsoft product?


Nobody's perfect :)

I'm preparing him for Minetest, though, if that makes you feel better!


I suppose the concern is more regarding the clunkiness of the design, as in, "it doesn't fit in my jeans pocket", not so much the functionality. Like you say, "phone" today is really just a moniker for "tech device I always carry on me".


Yes, this is a concern for most people, but the GameBoy used to fit perfectly into my pockets, so I really don't care.


It looks ..worse than the phone I used 8 years ago

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LG_enV2_(VX9100).


Extremely interesting.

Please tell us more about the LTE capabilities. Is it provided by a removable board? Which bands are supported??

Based on https://www.dragonbox.de/en/45-pyra it only supports B17 and AWS, which makes it mostly a AT&T compatible device

I wish it would support other bands, B25 for sprint (which has cheaper LTE plans)

Also, the wifi chipset is known. Can you run a hostapd?



Interesting. The photo looks kinda bulky, but it's pretty zoomed in. I guess it's more DS sized?


That's like the phone equivalent of the F-35


That page implies good battery life:

"A 6000mAh battery means you have a companion that will be there for you, through use and at times other devices have given up long ago."

But if you look deeper you find on their wiki:

https://pyra-handheld.com/wiki/index.php?title=Battery

"Everyday work load: 8 hours (without any power management features, tested on prototype April 2016)"

8 hours? This is a toy. Why is their headline figure "6000mAh" instead of "8 hours"? Because they know it's shit.


I guess you have little experience with embedded bring-up, "without any power management features" is a fairly whopping qualifier, and quoting battery capacity is a far more useful indicator for a prerelease device.

I've been on projects where the dev builds would last 30 minutes on battery right up to days before initial factory run


It's in your own quote - it was on a prototype, without any power management features. Once power management features are enabled, it will last longer.


Yes, I sure hope we can use GNU/Linux on phone one day. It wouldn't be that hard to make, given an unlocked hardware platform and open source drivers for baseband and graphics module. Actually, I have done a device very similar to smartphone in its hardware capabilities, but it was a commercial product limited in functionality. If I could get such hardware at home, I would definitely make some crude, hackish GNU/Linux smartphone.


Right now, thanks to libhybris[1] you can run glibc compiled systems (i.e. regular Linux, aka GNU/Linux) on top of proprietary Android drivers.

[1] https://github.com/libhybris/libhybris


I'd pay for a tutorial that shows how to use libhybris to accomplish that.


True true, I'm craving the day Ubnut Phone runs on my OnePlus 3. But I also used an loved Window Phone (so smooth, so intuitive and beautiful)... But the lack of apps kills you. Start with being able to run APKs, go from there please.


a port for OP3 is currently under development https://devices.ubports.com/#/op3


If only there was any decent hardware for Jolla.


The Fairphone 2 has decent* hardware specs[1] and it can run SailfishOS[2].

* approx. the same as OnePlus One, which partially[3] supports sailfish as well

[1] - https://shop.fairphone.com/en/ [2] - https://wiki.merproject.org/wiki/Adaptations/libhybris/Insta... [3] - https://wiki.merproject.org/wiki/Adaptations/libhybris


And if only Sailfish OS was open source. https://together.jolla.com/question/80676/request-fully-open...


This is true, and I hope SailfishOS will one day be completely FOSS, but please have a look at the bigger picture.

Here's a comment I wrote about the situation on reddit:

---

Yes, I'd prefer SailfishOS to be 100% FOSS, but Jolla is helping GNU/Linux establish its roots on the mobile.

How is it doing this?

* libhybris has opened up a whole new world for GNU/Linux, by allowing programs developed against glibc (i.e. GNU/Linux) to run on top of proprietary Android drivers (i.e. phones).

* Jolla puts a lot of development into lipstick, which makes it easier to develop UXs for phones/tablets/other form factors [This involved developing Wayland support]

* Jolla have opensourced their browser (Qt5 + Gecko engine) and their office suite (Nokia's Calligra Office work, with a QML interface)

* Jolla develops a sychronisation framework (buteo-sync) that can be used for syncing emails, Twitter, CalDav/CardDav, etc (I think Ubuntu Touch might adopt it in the future)

* Want to see how much manpower Jolla dedicates to developing FOSS? Look at the number of @jollamobile.com emails here: https://git.merproject.org/groups/mer-core/activity

* The SailfishOS community has been developing sfdroid. A FOSS application for running Android apps on your GNU/Linux mobile.

So while SailfishOS isn't 100% open source, it's doing a lot of good for the GNU/Linux community on the mobile.


If you're not satisfied with the "official" devices (e.g. Jolla 1, Intex Aquafish, or Jolla C [if you were lucky enough]), then there are a number of community ports at varying levels of maturity[1].

Otherwise, there's the possibility that the Fairphone 2 will receive official SailfishOS support. Finally, there's a number of yet unreleased devices with official SailfishOS support[2]

[1] https://wiki.merproject.org/wiki/Adaptations/libhybris

[2] https://together.jolla.com/question/136143/wiki-available-de...


What's wrong with Android as a hacker-friendly platform?


Android (and Apple) have a relatively rigid development toolkit. For Android you develop using the Java programming language against the Android APIs. The NDK is available, and you can always hack up methods to call the Android APIs from your favourite programming language (e.g. Python) but it's cumbersome.

I develop software for SailfishOS. It's like the Linux desktop. I SSH into my phone. zypper/pkcon install some dev tools (e.g. gcc, make, git). I initialise a Python virtualenv, pull down some libraries (e.g. Flask). I want to query SMS messages? I open an sqlite database on the filesystem. I can define services using systemd files. It really is "just Linux" underneath.


Very interesting! Do you work at Jolla or are there any 3rd party jobs?


I do not work for Jolla. I am in no way affiliated with Jolla, other than being part of the Jolla/SailfishOS/Maemo/Meego community. I try to support SailfishOS development (by buying Jolla devices, developing software for the platform and evangelizing its benefits).

The paid ecosystem around SailfishOS is non-existent, having said that Jolla are looking to hire: http://jolla.com/jobs


Yes, but AFAIK they don't hire remotely, at least for engineering jobs.


Out of curiosity, is there any thorough Qt for mobile tutorial working nicely on Jolla C? I am even willing to pay for it if it teaches me how to do advanced stuff, like getting straight to OpenGL with the least amount of clutter etc. I would love to write some Sailfish-only apps cool enough to attract regular people.


As long as it is systemd based it is not "just Linux".

BTW, it was actually in the Sailfish IRC dev chat that the whole "hire an assassin to take out Poettering" thing was uttered as a late night, off color, joke...


You can do most of that on a jailbroken iOS device as well. It even has launchd which you configure similarly to systemd files.


Drivers, Google Play Services, Googles move towards locking down the OS (now you can't get the local device's Bluetooth MAC address without a system level permission(!)).

I work on Android daily on hardware that is as "hacker friendly" as it comes besides the driver issue, and it fights you tooth and nail.


I was at Phonegap Europe 2013 and there was a big noise about Firefox OS (then still known as Boot to Gecko) there. It looked cool but it was always targeted at low-end, low-cost devices.

The problem with that, from my perspective as a developer, is that I don't want to develop apps for low-end devices because it's an enormous pain in the ass. The lack of horsepower and features means you're pretty much required to compromise your vision, unless you really are developing something very simple, or with minimal finessing.

On top of this, and this was even more so 3 years ago, today's high end devices are 2 years' time's low-to-mid-range devices. If it takes you 6-12 months to develop your app (again, depends on complexity) on today's high end hardware you'll be targeting the mid-range when you release. Of course, there's a bit more nuance to this because single core performance isn't really increasing that much, but you get the point.

Short version: targeting high end devices means you're developing for the future and not incurring the compromises (and, in fact, support overhead) of dealing with low-end kit.


Well said, my problem with Firefox OS was exactly that it was always targeting the low-end of the spectrum. People who buy the low-end smartphones do not usually care about the platform it's running on, nor can they afford to support 3-rd party app development.


That's a really good point. Whilst the goal of providing a good OS on low-end smartphones aimed at lower income economies sounds noble (is noble, in fact) it doesn't work commercially for developers because nobody will have the spare cash to buy their wares.

It's a real shame and it wasn't something that was immediately obvious to me at the time because I was very new to mobile development. Now of course I've experienced the same frustrations as every other mobile dev and realised that it's just not worth targeting anything but the top quartile. That is, unless it's a corporate app and you have a large number of lower end devices in the field that you don't plan on replacing before your app is deployed.


Yeah, that sums up a lot of their problems really well. They were basically attacking a market segment that wouldn't exist by the time that they had completed products on the market.


The devices couldn't even power the standard applications(i.e. camera, phone app etc) without visible lag.


Ubuntu Touch is still going. It's up to it's 13th release now and I don't think it's a failed project.

However I do think it's something that isn't yet ready for primetime, and it's going to be more a year or more before it is.

In the meantime they are trying to iron out bugs, improve features and get more developer attention for it. Recently they've added support for React Native: https://github.com/CanonicalLtd/react-native

HN readers might like to check out the Ubuntu Developer blog: https://developer.ubuntu.com/en/


I didn't know that ubuntu had a phone. I wondered if it could be installed on my own phone? Doessn't seem to mention that on their website. Oh well perhaps I'll buy one "Note — all our devices are currently sold out"

Ok well I guess I'll stick to android then...


I just looked at the Jolla devices as well and they are also out of stock. I imagine it's probably harder to coordinate selling these devices in small batches; I wish there was at least some kind of availability list I could sign up for.


Yeah, it is a pity all the phones are sold out. It can be ported to other devices though, you might get some useful info here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Touch/Devices


4 ubuntu phones and 2 tablets :D


It will fail if they don't improve performance and home UX. Adding APK support would also be a huge feature.


As it stands you either give Apple complete control of you software/hardware or you give Google full access to every detail of your life.

There should be a sticker "Don't blame me, I supported Firefox OS"


I know you're half-joking, but if this is something you're passionate about, there are things you can do (while there's still alternatives platforms...):

1. Purchase non-Apple, and non-Android devices (e.g. Jolla/SailfishOS, Ubuntu Touch devices)

2. Develop software for the alternative platforms -- that's what I do. It's a lot of fun programming on a GNU/Linux mobile. I write software in Python with 3rd party modules from pypi, and Qt/QML.

3. Spread the word. Tell other like-minded developers about how fun it is to work on your alternative platform of choice. Plus since there's only 10s of thousands of users, your software actual gets used (and people appreciate it!).


What GNU/Linux mobile? Can you elaborate on that?


I develop for SailfishOS. As I described in one of my other comments, it really is just "regular" GNU/Linux underneath:

>> I develop software for SailfishOS. It's like the Linux desktop. I SSH into my phone. zypper/pkcon install some dev tools (e.g. gcc, make, git). I initialise a Python virtualenv, pull down some libraries (e.g. Flask). I want to query SMS messages? I open an sqlite database on the filesystem. I can define services using systemd files. It really is "just Linux" underneath.


I had never heard of SailfishOS before this thread. Now I really want to pick up a device with SailfishOS, but I was planning on getting on GoogleFI compatible device in the next couple months. Decisions...

In any case, thank you for your efforts. I've been waiting for UbuntuOS for all the features I didn't know Sailfish has already.


How much of SailfishOS is covered by GPL or GPL compatible license? I don't want to invest my time into someone else business for free.


You can easily disable Google services on most Android devices. Or purchase a Cyanogenmod compatible device and use a third party store.


The problem is that the majority of apps written on Android these days depend on Google APIs or libraries, to the point that an Android without Play Services is almost useless. (Yes, this is from experience.)

Even Google's direct competitors require Google to use an Android. Skype and Outlook are great examples of apps you'd be amazed to discover will not run at all without Play Services.


There are fake GApps that I have tried on experimental devices and they fooled the apps enough to enable them to run. I haven't run these long-term or tried on more than 3 apps relevant to me to say if that would be a good approach.


I'd be a little iffy about security considerations once your plan is to rely on "fake apps".


I am not referring to mysterious binary blobs retrieved from torrents or such but open source projects such as https://github.com/thermatk/FakeGApps (http://repo.xposed.info/module/com.thermatk.android.xf.fakeg...).


People reading HN could, but the general public doesn't really have that option.


Does the general public care though?


Not at all. A lot of people who gather at places like these don't seem to realise that ordinary people have much more pressing problems in life than running a phone OS they can tinker with.


Does push notification still work without google services running?


Can you imagine what it would be like if every Linux distribution tried to build a competitor to Linux instead of a competitor to other distributions? That would be a hard problem even in the relatively small Unix desktop space.

That is how hard the problem was to solve for Mozilla OS. They were essentially building a competing OS when they could have just been building a competing distribution.

Android (AOSP) + Firefox + Firefox Market + Firefox Mail could have been amazing.


That's what Amazon went for, with very limited success (that said, not really targeting privacy conscious users or free software enthusiasts, so outcomes might not apply)


Going against Android and iOS was a mistake. Even Microsoft, with all their resources, is struggling to stay relevant in mobile.

Firefox OS should have competed against Chrome OS instead. Partner with some OEMs and you have a great alternative to Chromebooks.


I don't count Microsoft out of the space over the long term. Unification of the Windows platform from microcontrollers to servers is fairly far along and mobile phone operating systems are, for Microsoft, just another application of the Windows 10 technology.

Windows 10 Mobile has some of the advantages of iOS in terms of security updates and the Microsoft developer infrastructure -- whether that's a good thing depends on one's technical opinion of Visual Studio versus Xcode and Android Studio in terms of programming ergonomics and features and languages.

All that said, that doesn't mean that Windows Mobile will ever be successful or that a world where it's Apple, Google and Microsoft would be significantly better.


True - they seem determined to plug away at mobile until they make a success of it, and fair play to them: Windows 10 Mobile is decent. They've obviously got an uphill battle ahead of them to win back developers and customers but I think they can do it eventually.

I'd still like to see a credible OSS alternative in the mix as well, and I wonder if Mozilla couldn't make that work if they dropped their low-end focus.


Ubuntu's Snappy-Core grew out of their brief run at the phone: http://www.ubuntu.com/phone/devices

It has some parallels with Microsoft's strategy and could roll back into phones as just another device. And I think that getting a platform that works from embedded to server clusters has a good chance of how provisioning phones works ten years from now.

There's really nothing magical about phones. It's some compute cores, a bit of memory, some radios, a battery and a display. The only distinguishing feature of a phone is how the radio is tuned.


HP with webOS :). I really loved it. But it looks like you will need a really long breath to get attention and developers on your side for any new OS.


I used WebOS, and I agree. I really enjoyed my Pre3. I could never bring myself to like Firefox OS.

The best now is Jolla, which I don't think has failed at all yet (I have a Jolla C, I wrote about it shortly here: https://blog.separateconcerns.com/2016-09-16-thoughts-1.html).


LuneOS is still under active development by the webOS Ports team:

https://github.com/webos-ports

Open WebOS became LG WebOS and is still around on their TVs...


Web OS is now with LG.


For the average non-technical user, a "pure Linux" phone with no sand boxing would be a security nightmare. Just look at jailbroken iOS devices as an example. Maybe sophisticated users know how to take extra precautions in exchange for more freedom, but the average user will happily use banking apps with no idea what the other processes on the phone are doing.

For this reason, Android is a good middle-ground. It's well-sandboxed by default and if you need more power you can root it. Nothing is stopping anyone from releasing "free software" open source android apps published outside of the play store. As is, they would get more adoption than any app on the Ubuntu/Firefox/etc store.

As long as Android exists and is easily rootable, and preferably as long as the iOS jailbreak community keeps up with major versions, I'm happy with the state of "linux" on mobile.


Sure, android might be good enough for most people. But that's like saying porridge is good enough for most people. I want a steak, or a burger. The problem is that I don't really have a choice right now, I don't want porridge.

Additionally, even if you trust Google today, they can turn evil tomorrow and then we'd have >75% of people who are using android without any options. Diversifying the available options in the market market is good for everyone except Google.


There are political avenues to explore. Just as Microsoft was hit hard by a number of anti-monopolistic EU decisions regarding Internet Explorer, Apple in particular could be the target of an action in that space.

But this is the kind of thing that requires citizen action. Also, expecting the EU commission to be the only political consumer protection for multinational corporations is not ideal, there ought to be more actions on the American side as well.

Until then, I highly doubt that there will be any hope of breaking the duopoly, at least until Google's or Apple's core business model starts failing them, which is unlikely to occur within twenty years.

From an economical perspective, monopolies are great for companies and for the country's GDP, but they tend to cause lower standards of living, because of the loss of competition.


>Apple in particular could be the target of an action in that space

Android's market share in Europe is 75%. Google's search market share is over 90%. Any action against Apple would be completely counter productive when it comes to fighting monopolies.

Also, you need to take into account that the Web is a third mobile platform for all intents and purposes, and Windows still dominates the desktop.

So the case for any anti-trust action is extremely weak.


Not against Google, it's not :)

I think that the conditions that Google impose on handset manufacturers are something that probably should be investigated by the Commission. The travel search thing, not so much.


"Apple in particular could be the target of an action in that space."

I never understood that people keep saying that. It's not because you make a lot of money that you will get under investigation for being a monopoly.

Microsoft was fined because it used it's marketshare to bulldoze into other markets. Apple marketshare is so small in comparison that it can do all the same stuff without disturbing anything.


> There are political avenues to explore. Just as Microsoft was hit hard by a number of anti-monopolistic EU decisions regarding Internet Explorer, Apple in particular could be the target of an action in that space.

That makes no sense whatsoever. MS was hit because they were leveraging their OS monopoly into driving out and destroying competitors in other categories, such as browsers. Apple is so far from a monopolistic position in the EU they have a minority marketshare.


There are political avenues to explore. Just as Microsoft was hit hard by a number of anti-monopolistic EU decisions regarding Internet Explorer, Apple in particular could be the target of an action in that space.

Why? In the 5 largest European markets, Android has 3/4th marketshare [1]. How can Apple be targeted for monopolistic behavior?

[1] http://venturebeat.com/2016/05/11/android-is-eating-apples-i...


Plus, I'm much more worried about Googles vampiric approach to personal data, rather than Apple merely making it hard to deploy software.


> How can Apple be targeted for monopolistic behavior?

Because they don't even allow other browser engines on their iOS platform, which is explicitly what was the subject of the "ballot box" ruling.

Monopolies are per-product class. Apple is responsible for both the hardware and the software. All it takes is having one of their products own half of its market.

… which, of course, could take a long time. It did happen for tablets circa 2011, I believe.


Probably. Historically, tech falls into a natural monopoly or natural duopoly with some other marginal competition.

Windows and OSX rule on the desktop/laptop with Linux a bit player.

Intel and AMD on x86 with Via, IBM, and Cyrix and the rest either no longer being able to compete.

ATI and Nvidia on the gaming GPU end, and even then ATI had to be swallowed up by AMD to remain competitive. Intel still a bit player for budget graphics and with no product that remotely compares with the GPU heft of even a many years old Nvidia card.

We'll probably see iOS and Android be the default mobile OS's for a while with MS's Windows as a third player. Surface tablets and Windows phones still sell. If anything, the Surface Pro might be the best mobile Windows device out there and one of the nicer mobile devices for sale anywhere.

That said, mobile is probably resistant to a foss solution as people expect all sorts of cloud and managed experiences. Maps, siri/googlenow, cloud storage of photos, ease of buying, sharing, casting, media, etc. Most people won't be happy with an unbuntu phone that doesn't have all these features and probably couldn't care less about the privacy argument here. Do default installs of Sailfish, Tizen, and Jolla have any of this? Joe Consumer won't buy these things if they can't compete feature-wise.


Microsoft mobile strategy might pay off on the hybrid laptops and the new netbook generations (4/8GB + 32/64 eMMC).

Also they seem to at least cater to those not caring about apps, not able to pay for iPhone and dislike for Android.

Overall Market share in Europe around 5-10% was around a few months ago, but they have money to spare, and might keep selling Windows Mobile devices just not to loose face.

You cannot sell mobile OS based on FOSS religion, normal people want the apps everyone has and convenience, while most developers care about tooling.

So whatever alternative comes, must have a very good selling point to consumers and developers currently targeting the established platforms.


Plus Microsoft still has inroads left into the enterprise-managed mobile device space. (Most of the more recently announced non-Microsoft branded Windows mobile devices are things like HP's enterprise focused phone.) Especially with the potential big win of a company's IT being able to manage Windows mobile devices from the same Windows control panels as any other Windows machine in the workplace. Not that there is much territory there to sustain long term (just ask Blackberry), but with all the carriers slowly dropping their phone subsidies it might not be hard to imagine corporate sponsored phones could make a small comeback.


Only one of those really makes any money. What's the economic model that would bring a competing OS into existence?


That's the truth.

It's going to take a plateau of performance coupled with a commoditization of mobile hardware for open source to move in.

Without a viable business model and with the rapid rate of change it's impossible for open source to even try and play in this arena.


What? Both Android and iOS are responsible for tens of billions in revenue.


Profit is the relevant metric, not revenue.


Both are still profitable in the tens of billions.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-21/google-s-... $22 billion profit.

iOS is a bit more complicated to value, but they've made more than $10 billion just in app store commissions (even not counting increased sales of hardware due to iOS). So if you consider the cost of iOS development as weighed against their hardware sales, and book the software as profit, you'd get more than $10 billion. The real profit numbers are probably higher.

Anyway, the point is that there's no reasonable way to assert that either one of them isn't profitable.


Google might be, but not the phone manufacturers...except maybe Samsung but it's marginal compared to what share Apple gets.


Marginal? Holy shit, how isn't this completely transparent and dead, like my post will be?

Samsung is pulling in about $4B profit per quarter from their smartphones. "Marginal"? In what universe is $16B per year "marginal"? Certainly not this universe.

Just as a point of reference, Samsung's smartphone profits are greater than Walmart's profits. It's greater than the overwhelming bulk of world corporations.


Yeah, and the bit you're missing is that Google basically forces them the hardware manufacturers to compete in a way that means only one can win for any cycle. It's a zero sum game - the last couple of years Samsung has done well, but it's also integrated in a way that means it offsets investments in other areas (e.g their chip business). Most of the others have no hope of this - look at the bath that HTC has taken in the last three years, do you see Sony saying that they make money from mobile?

At the scale of investment required to run a mobile business, Android is generally a bad thing, it's commodifying them in the way that Intel did to the desktop PC market.


> Samsung is pulling in about $4B profit per quarter from their smartphones. "Marginal"? In what universe is $16B per year "marginal"? Certainly not this universe.

It's Galaxy, not universe!


I really want the Tizen project to succeed. It's tragic that this doesn't even run on mainstream Samsung devices. Talk about faith in their own work!


They have rebooted the complete platform already a few times, why should any developer waste time on Tizen?


I wonder if Samsung is holding that one close just in case Google irks them with Android. Right now, it probably makes more sense monetarily for Samsung to stay with Android.


<begin north american centric summary of problem> Tizen has one of the same problems that Firefox OS had - no real foothold with users. I have a Samsung Gear, Samsung TV, Samsung phone, and 0 Samsung apps, other than what ships with the devices. My apps are all Google based, and the only two apps on my TV that get used are Netflix and Youtube, everything else gets served by the computer connected (and Netflix and Youtube get used there more frequently since I have a full keyboard there).

Google and Apple both rely on ecosystems to attract and retain users, and Samsung doesn't have a competitive (or compelling) ecosystem. <end north american centric summary of problem>

I don't know if Samsung has the same problem in other markets, but I know that Firefox Marketplace does/did.


Samsung consistently fails at software. I honestly wish they would just quit and make their hardware use something more standard.


Only speaking for myself but I suspect others might feel the same way: I can't get excited about another essentially closed platform. I'm not interested in what are overpriced and underpowered devices that pretty much behave at best as slightly more open, yet still closed, Android-like devices.

I've been living this for the last several years both with Android and ARM devel/hobbyist boards and it isn't much fun. It would be nice these quasi-business entities (i.e. Mozilla, Canonical) would forget about their brand-exclusive strategies and try to rally around an open ARM-based platform (you know, with support for things like, I don't know, GPUs and such) they can all run on. THAT I could get excited about and we could all win. Short of that, I don't get what I want and they continue to lose relevance in the mobile era. Granted, I'm part of the 1% that runs Linux. But here's a newsflash: right now we're the only ones who care about Canonical, Mozilla, etc. and ~1% beats 0%.


What examples are there of an "open ARM-based platform" with support for GPU's etc?

I don't know of any situation where the ARM ecosystem works like that, the companies compete for differentiation, they have a very limited interest in standardisation. Maybe I'm missing what you're referring to. It also wouldn't get you a phone, it would get you a base board but all the other bits like radios compete on the different manufacturers platforms.


They're aren't, and that was my point. I think that is one of the reasons (there are others) why something like the Raspberry Pi has become so dominant. It's disastrously bad from the standpoint of openness as a platform, but they've gotten the needed technical info and binary blobs to make it work better than just about everything else out there right now on ARM. It seems like there ought to be a couple of 2nd tier GPU design houses (i.e. not nVidia or AMD) that would be motivated to cut a deal to ship on the order of at least millions of units in the relatively near term. And the larger supposed supporters of open source have funding on the order of over a billion dollars (Mozilla's last deal with Google was a billion dollars alone) that it seems like at least a fraction of could be directed to help make this happen. They don't need to build anything that competes with this or even last year's flagship devices, iterate nearly as quickly, or even play the 'we made it .00001mm thinner' industrial design game. They would just need to get something serviceable out there and the design costs could be amortized over several years with only minor revisions needed (i.e occasional bumps to CPU and memory specs etc.)

I'm not suggesting that this be done purely from the standpoint of altruism: for both the IP providers and the various foundations, this would provide them with a possible path to participate in mobile that is closed to them currently so it seems like it's in their interest from an existential standpoint. That said, maybe it really is impossible to motivate any of the players necessary to go down this path. In which case it seems worthwhile for the open source crowd to go all-in on something like RISC-V/OpenGPU and jettison the proprietary IP as completely as possible, as soon as possible.


I think an alternative will only come from a paradigm shift.

For the same reason DOS/Windows reigned on the desktop for decades, with Mac having a few percents and Linux repeatedly failing to grab any significant market share.


You forgot WebOS, which has been open sourced since HP killed it.

There was a brief flurry of activity around it, including getting it run on older Nexus devices, then it petered out.

I submit that a big part of the problem is fragmentation of effort. There was no reason for Ubuntu, Mozilla, and WebOS all to be aiming at the same target at the same time in very similar ways but by different people.


WebOS is licensed out to LG these days for their Smart TV's. It's still the commercial deal it's been since HP bought it from Palm.

Open WebOS is a different beast (much like how Mozilla wasn't Netscape Navigator), based on the open sourced components of WebOS.


Well sure, but Open WebOS was complete enough to boot on Galaxy Nexus and provide a mostly complete environment.


> Is it practically impossible? Are we stuck with Android and iOS forever?

I think it's pretty simple: people want to use apps on their phones, and no phone OS is viable without a competitive library of apps.

Most major apps are developed for both iOS and Android, and convincing app developers to develop for a third platform is going to be a tough sell, unless that platform is very attractive to users. However, to be attractive to users, it will have to have a lot of apps already...

I suspect that the only way to gain marketshare for a new mobile OS is to ship it with an Android or iOS compatibility layer, which would be pretty difficult to do well. The developers would have to re-implement the entire iOS or Android API, and keep up with all of the changes. If they did that, there would be no incentive for developers to target the native APIs of the OS, because they could just target Android or iOS like they do already. So, the compatibility layer could never be deprecated.

So yeah, I think we're stuck.


People aren't interested in backups. They're interested in restores.

People aren't interested in apps. They're interested in capabilities.

The apps markets are good for ... delivering a completely dizzying (that is: intentionally discombobulating and confusing) array of crappy software that sometimes works, always intrudes on your privacy and steals your personal information, and frequently goes titsup.com for no particular reason and with limited notice.

I don't want apps.

I want decent browsing capabilities with document management.

I want explicit control over networking.

I want a messaging capability. SMS, IRC, eMail, whatever -- there's no reason these need to be split out.

I want a multimedia player.

A basic set of utilities. The same ones as were on the Xerox Alto 48 years ago: A calendar, calculator, notepad type editor. Basic spreadsheet wouldn't hurt.

These days something with maps and an encyclopedia would be handy. Stills/video camera and gallery.

And since I'm not the 99.98%, I'd like a goddamned full-fledged shell running Linux or BSD.

But StuffMyCrapWebsiteIntoThisApp.com? Not so much.


I don't think it's impossible. It does take consistent investment, and consistently not screwing things up. Between Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows Mobile 10, Microsoft decided that 'one Windows platform' was more important than a dedicated mobile team, and as a result, Windows Mobile 10 arrived several months late and without polish. Their hardware refresh (Lumia 950, Lumia 550, etc) was held up waiting for the software and as a result, they lost momentum. Additionally, promised upgradability from 8.1 devices to Windows 10 came with a lot of caveats.

A great Windows Phone 10 launch would not have put them in the top two, but it may have solidified them as a third platform.


@Yoavm, what pisses me more is that both Apple & Google now have a yearly update of their OS and all they shamelessly showcase on stage is emoji's and notifications.


Maybe that's it? The product category of "smartphone OS" is now so well-defined that the possible improvements are evolutionary at best, not revolutionary, and hence there's also no space for a new entrant to provide a big enough improvement over the incumbents to gain significant attention?

Firefox OS promised to make app creation easier through web technologies, but "not enough apps" isn't the problem with Android or iOS, quite the contrary, so for an end user, that's pretty irrelevant.


Yeah but a year for 70 more emojis? Come on now. With all the good engineers they have.. There always must be a good idea in the span of a year..


Well, even at a tech conference, "we eBPF'd and ASLR-ized your app sandboxes even more and now you have even less risk of getting pwned" might draw a "meh" reaction. In very real terms it helps close the device security gap between Android and iOS, but it probably just can't hold people's attention.


My theory specific to iOS 10 is that it's actually a stability-focused maintenance build behind the scenes. The emoji are for cultural appeal while they hide the fact that the real features are not actually features- they're boring, hidden fixes to stabilize iOS after the previous few releases.


That's what users actually care about. Market demand.


It is very unlikely we will see a third alternative on phones. But, who said smartphones will be a mainstay for ever? There is clearly a major drive towards voice as the primary UI and if you are not screen constrained then interesting developments might occur.


There gonna be a third option like ubuntu desktop is the third option after windows and macos. But It's gonna be for people who value control or privacy above everything else. The key factor remains the timing for this third option to rise.


We still have Samsung's Tizen, fast, powerefficient and can it run Android apps


> Is it practically impossible?

Offer something people want that the others don't. It's not enough to just not be iOS or not Android, that only appeals to the small segment of people that HN appeals to.

The selling point for Ubuntu, Mozilla and Microsoft's phone was just 'it's not them.' They didn't provide any value. Microsoft had apparently forgotten what they had to do to make the xBox viable against Sony and Nintendo when it first launched, because they didn't just launch it with 'Hey, at least we're not Sony, the developers will show up eventually.'


I don't know how practical this idea is, but I dream of an alternative world where Yahoo went all in on Firefox OS. I think Firefox was Yahoo's ticket to relevance, if they wanted it.


Does the tiny selection of desktop OSes worry you? Microsoft has had at least 90% market share for 2 decades.

At any rate, it seems like two major brands is all the tech world can handle.


Yes, it is practically impossible, the same way there was a duopoly of desktop computers in the 90s and 2000s. Similarly to that era, there will be niche players (OS/2, desktop linux then, windows 10 mobile now), but the vast majority of the software and hardware will run the dominant OSes.

Hey, at least it isn't a monopoly and one of the OSes is freeish. Freedom wise, hardware is behind, but the software is ahead (of the desktop market).


I think the only option that has an even remote chance of success right now is to fork Android and do your own thing while maintaining compatibility with as many existing Android apps as possible.

So, something like Cyanogenmod but with more drastic changes. It's Linux under the hood after all. It's already compatible with GNU coreutils and a whole bunch of other free software. No need to start again from zero.


The problem with that is Google can deny you rights to bundle Play Store... and they will if they see you as a thread... and you're fucked.


The problem is Android and IOS basically came at the same time and got almost same apps in them. For a new platform there is not much to innovate other than we have the same features, but not the same company. There is only way to win in this industry now. Its to create a OS which has compatibility with android apps and has excellent hardware integration.


People are worried about this now, but the time to have been worried was like 2009-2010, when iOS (I think??) could've claimed to have had a monopoly, at least in the US, and before iOS really got a mindshare into people going.

I could also say the same about people upset with Facebook-2009-2010 people!


I wouldn't write of Microsoft yet. There is great potential if they can nail this phone to desktop merged experience. Enterprise would find it super appealing. And I could see consumers buying in too.

This has to be one of the best ways into handset market for MS/Ubuntu or others.


Of course it's not impossible

The issue is where the money is coming from.

Also, to move on an entrenched market you need to do a lot of things upfront. Android in, let's say, 2011 was much worse than iOS, today the gap has closed.


> The issue is where the money is coming from.

I think what Microsoft wasted on Nokia's phone business was something in the magnitude of >$8 billion, so money was not really the problem at least in their case.


we're no more stuck with those two than we were with blackberry. things change in less than predictable ways. next big os front will be bringing embedded (read iot) from the old school to the new.


Wasn't it snapchat that released some strange techno-hipster glasses with camers just now. Eventually we will see embedded oled in them and hand gesture interfaces for more augmented reality.


yeah - hats off to them for getting in the IoT/wearable game. "snapholes"? :)


If Android went closed source, I could see a new window opening.


There's also Blackberry QNX and Windows mobile.


WebOS as well!


I'll say yes, we're stuck with the two. The resources required to create and maintain a decent, competitive mobile OS imply a need for a size of user base that no new entrant will be able to achieve in a reasonable time frame.


You can also just say no to smartphones.


I still love my FirefoxOS Geeks Phone Keon 2013, it still is my go-to backpacking phone. ongoing long battery runtime, a decent browser for the https://mbasic.facebook.com/, gmail HTML, hacker news. necessary apps are there and work fine: For me that's HERE maps & alarm function.

I love it, because it's un-addicting. android and ios are designed to get your attention, all the time. FirefoxOS ist a tool that is there for you when you need it.

I wish they had succeeded, I even ran an FirefoxOS meetup in Vienna, I will miss it. Now back to my Android Phone, I think it beeped, vibrated or needs me in some other way.


Yes, thanks Mozilla for making a timer app that by default neither beeps nor vibrates. Thankfully I only lost one oven load of food before I noticed.

And thanks Mozilla for making an OS that glitches out if you use the power button in the wrong moment, nothing wakes you up better than having to reboot your phone to stop the damn alarm clock.

FirefoxOS is such an unfinished shitfest. I have no idea how 1.3 passed QA. (Nor why Alcatel still isn't releasing any update, even though they're still selling the phone in question.)


And for that reason, it's worth recognizing how much work ahead there is for the web platform to be capable of delivering full OS experience.

Only now, pieces of the HTML/DOM/JS spec that have been kickstarted out of need when FxOS was being developed start landing in the spec.

Whoever will try next, will have an easier job because of the FxOS experience.

source: I'm an engineer who worked on FxOS in 2014-2016


Or it's worth recognizing that trying to deliver full OS experience with Web technology is a waste of time.


"It always seems impossible until it's done."


> I love it, because it's un-addicting.

To me this is synonymous with "has less features" or "unusable". I think Microsoft actually did an ad campaign on this "un-addicting" thingy.

If you're actually optimizing for time well spent, re-read https://medium.com/swlh/distracted-in-2016-reboot-your-phone... (you can apply most of this to Android).


As a former long-time user of Windows Phone, it's not "unaddicting" in a way that's boring. There are plenty of apps to waste your time with. It's just that you don't need to. When I used Windows Phone, I didn't need to open an app to see the weather, or to see my text message, or to see my email. The live tiles made sure I could see all of that from the home screen. One glance across the screen and I knew everything I needed to know. Time, weather, headlines, new emails, new text messages, new Facebook posts, new tweets, next calendar appointment, and at the bottom, rotating pictures of my family. All without swiping, scrolling, tapping, or opening any apps. Ten seconds and I could lock the screen and get on with my day.

There's no other OS on the market that lets you do this.


So why did you leave it and what do you use now?


I can't speak for the user you replied to but I can speak for myself: they stopped making good devices. I had a lumia 920, then I upgraded to the 930 which I still consider one of the best phones I've ever had, for its time. Then MS just... stopped. Took them forever to come out with the 950 and it was nowhere near competitive both in hardware quality and design with the ios and android competition. That was the last. Everything was awesome until after the 930 they simply stopped coming out with competitive devices for me.

Roughly at the time the 950 came out I switched to androidland. This year I wanted my upgrade to be the iphone but when the rumours about the lack of headphone port became undeniable I ended up by upgrading into a new android phone, which I'm using right now.

All of this sucks because there's absolutely nothing that comes close to the fantastic design and usability patterns of windows phone.


I left Windows Phone because of the hardware. I couldn't stand the capacitive buttons anymore, so I switched to an iPhone since it was the only flagship phone without capacitive system buttons. There is nothing that replaces Windows Phone live tiles though. The closest you can get is widgets but it's not even close to the same. There's no Twitter widget on iOS, for example. And the widget section is a completely different UI.

I took a major step back in UX because of poor hardware designs. I shouldn't be forced out of an app just because my finger slid a little bit off the screen and hit the home button.


I don't understand if you like Windows Phone so much why didn't you get a phone with on-screen buttons? I have a Microsoft Lumia 640 and with the buttons on the screen, you can swipe up and hide the button bar, so it doesn't get in the way.

I'm actually trying to get rid of it and move because Window Phone 10's UX is a mess. Nothing makes sense, and apparently most developers don't have a clue about UX in the WP10 ecosystem.

For example, the native app to watch video, doesn't have a control to swipe and fast-forward. Wut? So you have to actually click on the length bar to get to the minute you want. That's like UX 101. And it's like this with so many apps...


On-screen buttons are capacitive buttons.


I did some research and all I could find related to capacitive was buttons out of the screen. But like I said before, you can hide the buttons bar, so it you would have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen and then touch the windows button to get to the live title stuff.. So I don't find your reason enough to do what you did, but anyway, it's your life! I'm looking forward to get my hands on IOS and see what's like

Edit: I was amazed by LG's UI on android 4.4. It's fucking cool. Those guys know how to make life easy and pretty for folks. It is actually a 14 bucks phone that kicks 100++ bucks phone assess


As far as I know, you can do all that with homescreen widgets on Android. Or am I misunderstanding you?


You can to an extent. If the app supports widgets, and the widgets are the right size to fit together on your screen, you can fit a small number of widgets. That doesn't mean they look good though. Android widgets look like widgets, Windows Phone tiles are just the interface. That's what it looks like, it was designed to be that and only that and nothing else.


Where is your Android doing notifications that your Firefox Phone wouldn't have? You can use Android with just a browser and selected apps just the same.


> I love it, because it's un-addicting

You mean you love it because you hate using it?

> un-addicting.

Interesting marketing formula. "Un-addicting". Might be useful in the future to justify the uselessness of a product. "but it's a feature! it's un-addicting". It was so un-addicting Mozilla killed the project dead.


I understand the feeling. Mobile phones are great for what they give you, but also great because they're just crappy enough to push you to use a more comfortable solution when one's available. It's great to have a Swiss army knife, but you'll still wish for your toolbox at home.


Not only that, they're ripping out support for it from the Gecko code base, which means that the only way to get security updates for it will be to fork Gecko. I doubt anyone has the resources to do that. It's basically dead. (Every non-Firefox consumer of Gecko has met the same fate so far.)


Mozilla of course has every right to determine how it wants to allocate its resources... but to me, this action speaks loudly that you cannot really count on them to stay the course. So, from an outsider perspective, every initiative must be analyzed skeptically, since they may leave you holding the bag.

This is always true to a degree, but the more true you think it is, the less likely you are to jump onto said initiatives.


>This is always true to a degree, but the more true you think it is, the less likely you are to jump onto said initiatives.

While I'm sad since I can't now run Firefox OS on my OpenMoko phone, while listening to my ogg vorbis files and rocking Chandler, the revolutionary PIM app and posting updates to Diaspora, this should have been the conclusion from the beginning.

It was pretty clear that nothing much was ever gonna come out of it.


Chandler (epic distraction) may have wandered off into the sunset but people are still running predecessors Lotus Agenda (DOS era) and Ecco Pro (Win 95 era) to this day. Ecco Pro has even been binary patched to enable Lua scripting. The computer industry has many commercial failures that shipped elements of technical excellence.


This comment is a stone cold classic.


> this action speaks loudly that you cannot really count on them to stay the course.

To be fair, on whom can you count? Although Google has had a success with Android, my impression is that the ground is littered with the projects that it advertised heavily but then left behind, abandoned, or killed.


The entire panorama of Silicon Valley is littered with the corpses of things tried and abandoned. I think that's the nature of software.


> This is always true to a degree, but the more true you think it is, the less likely you are to jump onto said initiatives.

It's certainly the reason I've never paid Firefox OS any attention (and it's a lot of why I won't even look at most things coming out of Google).

If leadership aren't aware of this general "meh" attitude, they really should be.


The Palemoon browser project forked gecko a while back. Their forked engine is called goanna.


This outcome should have been obvious to everyone involved. The fact that it wasn't raises serious doubts about the Mozilla leadership.

You can't compete with Android by being slower, less responsive, and ship with less features.


The leadership from the Firefox OS era is all gone, FWIW.


Seriously... I avoid Firefox on my (rather beefy) desktop because of how much it freezes. I don't want to imagine how it worked on a 50€ phone, which looked like it was their target.

Maybe they thought Gecko would be ready by the time the OS was going to ship?


But this a poor, skewing argument always made by at least one person here. For most FF is very responsive and there are no problems what so ever.

And FF is not FF-OS.


> For most FF is very responsive and there are no problems what so ever.

Open dev tools, type `for (;;) {}`. Notice the whole browser becomes unresponsive. This has been improved upon (as in it doesn't block the whole Firefox UI, just merely every single content tab) thanks to Electrolysis partially reaching stable but "there are no problems whatsoever" simply isn't true performance wise (and this is the most obvious one, there are numerous other very well known performance issues with FF)


Open your terminal, type ':(){ :|:& };:'. Notice how the whole OS becomes unresponsive.

There is a very simple solution to both these problems, which most people employ to great effect: just don't do that.


Besides that doing `perl -e 'for (;;) {}'` and watching your OS burn down in flames (which it doesn't) is the correct parallel, I'll assume you have overlooked that we have no control on what JS does in whatever page we're presented with, and if it's some heavy handed code it has a significant impact on whatever else I may be doing on an unrelated tab, which feels like going back to plain old cooperative multitasking, upon which the above perl code would effectively be a blight.


Run an infinite for loop and look at the performance degradation is about the dumbest test you could do. That's literally asking it to not stop executing. Yeah tab isolation would mean you only crash a tab but that isn't a good example.


So you tell me it's reasonable that a frozen tab makes the whole browser unresponsive. Nice.


I have an easy metric for that: when you're navigating, look at the "loading" spinner on the tab bar, and see how it almost always freezes every time a page is being drawn.

DOM painting/manipulation times in Gecko are a joke, probably the worst pain point of Firefox. And it's not the only one...


If you think FF is responsive, there are two options: 1) you haven't compared it to Chrome/WebKit/Edge, or 2) you don't run heavy applications such as TweetDeck on it.

And FF-OS was a complete OS that ran on Gecko, so yes, if Gecko (FF) is slow, the entire FF-OS is slow.


A direct Firefox to Firefox OS comparison is not reasonable. For one, FxOS was a greenfield ecosystem, so it was built with multiprocess from the start, whereas the e10s project moves relatively glacially toward a multiprocess world so that nothing gets broken.


I quite like Firefox on Android. It's fast, supports a wide range of plugins (including uBlock Origin), and syncs well with desktop Firefox.

The one downside is that it's memory-hungry, so on my very underpowered phone, it gets pushed out of memory a lot when switching apps. On a more powerful device I'd never notice.


So their product on day 1 should have been faster, more responsive and had more features than Android / iOS ?


No, they shouldn't enter a market by trying to out do the established players at their own game. Microsoft didn't dethrone IBM by making a better mainframe.


Ah, there are no niches. Got it.


Sharp readers will note the tell for cognitive dissonance of deliberately misrepresenting my position twice in a row


How about having acceptable performance to begin with? Even the medium spec Flame developer device feels laggy and generally unresponsive in use. Actual consumer devices like the $35 Firefox phone were literally unusable: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/10/testing-a-35-firefox-...


Number 1 reason why I didn't pick up an Panasonic 4K TV, because i knew Firefox OS will be dead some day. And number one reason why I REALLY want an APPLE TV Set rather then Apple TV STB.

Most of the Smart TV on the market today are total piece of Junk. They are what "Smart"phones were before the iPhone came out. As a matter of fact, SmartTV from China are pretty good on the software front, and lacking ( price cutting too much ) on the hardware.

Just wanted to mention about Mozilla leadership. And so call leadership in general, HOW DID these *&@^$% ever got to their position? This is speaking from a user who has been with them before the Firefox era.


I want a dumb display and a smart STB -- because I don't want to have to replace a thousand-dollar display just to get new STB hardware.

It's why I have a TV and a Roku, rather than a Roku TV. Why combine them when their upgrade cycles don't match up?


Also a fair point. But then I want a Real DUMP TV. Or a Display Panel only with speakers. A Single Port for the STB, and have everything attached via the STB, including the TV Aerial line. Why? Because i dont want a Remote for my Dump TV, another Remote for my STB, a remote for DVR etc. I want a single user interface to control my experience on my TV. We are well into 2016 and i dont see any improvement in sight.

The UX we currently have TV Sucks.

P.S - The problem with this solution is that no manufacture is willing to sell you a display panel only.


AFAIK at this point the dumb TVs all have worse displays.


Which is why I just ignore the smart stuff and use a capable STB instead.


emodendroket is stating that "ignoring the smart stuff" means disregarding high-quality imaging available on the top-of-line products.


Twirrim is stating that "ignoring the smart stuff" doesn't necessarily mean buying a dumb TV, and that they buy a smart TV, ignore a bunch of the TV's features, and replace them by using a separate set-top box.


Ah, of course. Ok, chalk it up to muphry's law.


Consider a short-throw projector instead: zero "smart" features, multiple inputs, relatively portable, adjustable screen size.


But it doesn't have to be that way, even if it is right now. I wish there were a way to explicitly signal "I bought this Smart TV as a dumb display, and I'm using smart features, just not the ones provided by the TV". If enough people were known to be doing that, it might suggest a market for high-end dumb TVs.


Get yourself a big computer screen instead? That's what I use.


Same here. Super happy with an Nvidia Shield TV.


All I want is a high-quality, instant-on 55" IPS LCD panel with four HDMI inputs, proper support for HDMI CEC (ARC, power on/off, and input changing), and maybe an ambient light sensor.

I don't want smart features, a fancy remote with two dozen buttons, TV tuning, or anything. I'd be happy with a thin TV but I don't need one.

Just give me a way to put my PS4 on the wall and I'll be happy as a clam.


Well, in fairness, David Bryant joined Mozilla in mid-2015 and Ari Jaaksi in late 2015; Firefox OS was dead in the water before either joined. The leadership problems exist above them.

Mozilla has no technical leadership problems, but they have some huge people and business leadership problems, and until they figure out a path forward, the path will continue to be a meandering trail to the bottom :(


Mozilla has zero focus. Their constantly creating new online initiatives and abandoning old ones. It's like groundhog day.


I agree. Examples: they abandoned their Persona project. At a time where identity, sign-in, authentication and security are as important as ever, they've left the field wide open to privacy-invasive companies like Google and Facebook.

Rather than build an OS, why not create the foundation or platform for others to build on? I am thinking of Electron here. Although, I am not a fan of Electron, the framework and approach are gaining a lot of traction with developers. Where is the slim, fast, embeddable Firefox engine that's easier to deploy and develop than Electron (and superior to the heavy embedded Chrome)?

What about offline capabilities for web apps? Firefox should be trailblazing in this space. This is a huge privacy advantage (amongst other things) over cloud-based systems.

I really want to see Firefox succeed, but am worried they have lost direction and focus, or even the ability to excite and inspire developers with their future plans.


They abandoned Persona because nobody used it and it cost money to operate. They tried promoting it, it wasn't enough to overcome social media SSO. I hate it, but they just lost.


UX were bad, it wasn't a marketing fault ( Although they did a poor job promoting it also ). User didn't understand what was going on, and therefore reluctant to use it.


As far as I'm concerned I think you should get only the TV screen and choose your own 'smart' box.


I bought a 2015 Sony TV with Android TV and I'm very happy with it.


Just give it a couple more years. I was very happy with my GoogleTV until Google abandoned the platform.


You may not get updates after sometime, even for security issues. That's a big issue if you use the TV's "Smart Features" and someone is spying on everything you do with it or everything you watch on it.

This is a problem for TVs and other home appliances that are usually replaced by people once every several years or even once a decade or longer, on average (this does vary across regions and on incomes, but it's definitely a whole lot longer than people's replacement times for smartphones).


Do you really use any apps?(i.e. downloaded from the appstore) I have a LG(WebOS) but I never bothered to download any 3rd party apps.


I believe most of the top has been with mozilla since before Firefox.


Exactly the reason why they are still the way they are.


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