Obviously there are technical workarounds that you can attempt but consumers are wary of "knock off" products. So there is a vicious cycle in which people won't produce the content that you need to get users until you already have users. Possibly one can break this by supporting Android apps, but you would have to make the experience as good as an actual android device, which seems both demanding and limiting (because of cross-app interactions via e.g. intents).
EDIT: found source: http://blog.textit.in/your-path-to-a-$16b-exit-build-a-j2me-...
I guess his response would be that the web-based approach changes the pitch from "make a version of KakaoTalk for our mobile OS" to "make a web version of KakaoTalk, which also runs on our mobile OS" along with "and you don't even need to talk to us for deployment".
Therein lies the rub. The products were all mediocre-specced handsets from little known manufacturers. So, right from the outset Firefox OS felt like a down-market 'landfill Android' type product.
I'd have bought a Firefox OS phone in a heartbeat, if it felt like an upgrade [or even a sidegrade] from my existing phone. But the specs for the most top of the range model available were actually worse than those of my existing 3+ year old Android model.
Sadly, this 'pursuit of mediocrity' sees a lot of OSS projects shoot themselves in the foot.
Which leads to the question... why the heck did they pursue this in the first place? I would point at Mozilla management incompetency (Mitchell Baker etc).
My thoughts: They didn't do any technical/performance feasibility study before embarking on this adventure; rather relied on vaguer terms these people are atuned to (equality, openness, freedom, etc) rather than hard technical facts.
I'm actually going to quibble with this. Having ran Firefox OS 2.1 on the original (crappy hardware) Flame, all of the main UI and built-in apps were buttery smooth. I wasn't expecting this, and it kind of blew me away.
This makes sense with my experience from Opera Software (who also tried to build a browser OS, but way back in 2003-2004 and quickly retreated after it failed):
The main issue here is that writing a performant HTML-based UI is a very complex thing. It works great when people who really understand the entire web platform writes the software, but breaks down when regular web devs are supposed to write "HTML apps" for it.
Meanwhile, the usual mindless singsong around HTML UIs is amongst the lines of "now 10 (or is it 20 now?) web developers can write mobile UI:s; they don't need to learn native Android or iOS development."
My main point here is that the HTML way is a lie. It's easy to make something that looks good; and it's insanely hard to make it perform well.
Of course not anybody can make a well-performing web app, just like not just anybody can make a well performing Android app. In some ways, yes, it is a little more difficult.
But speaking as a C programmer who was pleasantly surprised by the change, it's not that difficult to make a performant web app. I've never had a problem with it.
Of course not *anybody* can make a well-performing web app, just like not
just anybody can make a well peforming Android app.
Speaking as a C programmer who was pleasantly surprised by the change
You need to understand the DOM (and how various CSS declations contribute to rendering complexities), the rendering model, reflows, work around them, pre-fetch tricks, etc etc. Not saying anything like this impossible, but I'm pretty sure the claim that "oh all web devs can do this" is invalid. Basically; the performance issue with declarative UIs is that it's really easy to declare something very complex by mistake.
Seems the premise of many, but if we also accept that, we won't get far.
But he knows that:
"After realising “open” on its own doesn’t sell, ultimately chose a strategy to compete mainly on price, which is just a race to the bottom. "
That's why the project Sputnik used a machine from the higher end of the spectrum - and it was a success.
Seems like Ubuntu Touch is also facing such struggles ticking both boxes (they still don't have a flagship product, especially after the failure of the Ubuntu Edge campaign), and Windows Phone had some impressive Lumia phones with fancy cameras but I don't recall that they ever tried to fight Android on the lower end of the market.
Windows Phone had some impressive Lumia phones with fancy cameras, but I
don't recally that they ever tried to fight Android on the lower end of the
I always thought they were trying to put a ChromeOS competitor on a phone when it actually belonged on laptops, tablets and 2-in-1s (to start). I would have been very interested in a device running an extension-rich privacy-respecting browser, using open tech, focused on education and as a device to develop for.
It's essentially Mozilla's mission statement made into physical form. Dealing with corporate interests, as the article suggests, forced Mozilla to diverge from their base (end-users). It was a learning experience, that was all.
I don't actually expect the project to be revived and that's a real shame given the hostility of the alternatives (not including Linux, etal) available to (the rest of) us.
Plenty of parallels between the two OSes, down to some of the personnel who bailed to Firefox OS from HP.
It seemed like a giant duplication of effort towards similar aims.
This result in two problems when doing web first on mobile.
1: bloated frameworks. Both in term of CPU usage, memory consumption, and the number of round trips needed to show something like a simple list of links.
2: "mobile" sites that may look right at first glance but that invariably show themselves to have elements that hint at having been designed on a large screen computer with a mouse attached.
But what sank FFOS was its availability. Its concept fitted perfectly into the SV mindset and the ongoing "maker" thinking.
But they were launched and sold to the "third" world as spruced up featurephones.
You combine this with the fact they were targeting the low-end, entry level marketspace. and you have a recipe for failure. At a time when even low-end Android phones had finally overcome their sluggishness, the first Firefox OS device that I tried felt slow and unresponsive.
I'm sad FxOS didn't carry on and really appreciate the writeup!
The author's 'Lessons Learned' section reads as a wishful vision of web browsers themselves, which, is both surprising in its lack of differentiation, and yet simultaneously ambitious in its hopes of being able to culture a... what's the word? 'platform'? 'ecosystem'? 'environment'? where well-executed server-side technologies interact with thin but slick clients; how is this different from the existing web and its browsers again? Does the point then become to offer a FOSS low-level system OS on top of which a browser can run? Isn't this one of the few successes of B2G, yet also operates in a space entirely dependent on the whims of hardware vendors, and competes with the likes of Tizen, Sailfish OS, AOSP, and the Linux kernel itself?
The retrospective is interesting: a dissenting opinion from an inside source, and it definitely sheds light on some important details that were glossed over or ommitted from the more 'political', corporate communiqués. But the conclusions are unsatisfactory: the preferred outcome reads less like "Boot to Gecko" than "Boot Only to Gecko", which sounds a lot like Chromebooks. The difference being, of course, that Google has a diverse (if frequently culled) selection of web-accessible services that together can be used as a computing and browsing platform, feeding search and browsing metadata and usage habits to Google thanks to the power of defaults. What could Mozilla have offered in this space to realistically take on the exact same frenemy with a larger warchest?
Firefox OS and webOS are essentially the same concept. Palm built theirs for 2009 top-end hardware, and it turned out that the hardware just wasn't quite enough to run a browser engine for the entire UI... And then Mozilla goes ahead and tries to do the same thing on low-end hardware that was worse than the Palm Pre.
What was the rationale here? I can only imagine this choice was imposed by the hardware partners they could round up. If so, it's a classic example of how engineering and business development manage to undermine each other to destroy a product.
I don't think the poor performance of WebOS means that approach is fundamentally doomed, especially since FirefoxOS was a few years later... a few years during a period of massive year-over-year increases in mobile computing power.
Long story short: relative to Android, they were bypassing the whole Java layer. Gecko (which is pretty mature + optimized) was essentially running on bare metal. Lose some performance here, gain some performance there. They felt this would offer strong performance.
Now, to be honest, I literally have no idea how this played out in reality. Never even touched a FirefoxOS device.
But, theoretically, there's no reason why this approach can't be pretty fast. At some point your apps need to talk to a widget-drawing layer. If implemented well there's no reason why an HTML-based approach can't be pretty darn fast, or at least fast enough not to be the limiting factor in your phone's performance.
I owned a first-gen Palm Pre, and this was not my experience. It had plenty of problems, but the UI was always responsive and pleasant to use. (More pleasant than I find Android today, on much beefier hardware nearly a decade later.)
The UI/UX for webOS was fantastic. I really wish FF (or really anyone) would have used that UI/UX as nothing since has come close.
What do you mean? Seems like this was fundamentally Mozilla imposing their philosophy/faith in their web technology/platform on hardware partners rather than the other way around? (And I believe the article supports that interpretation).
But, then who will? Firefox OS allowed you to run a full HTML5 browser on a phone with half the specs of Android. They sold a phone for $33 that was (and still is) the cheapest thing to run Youtube and Wikipedia! The only huge technological advantage Firefox OS had was the fact that Boot-to-Gecko didn't have the overhead of a middle layer virtual machine (like android). That's a HUGE deal if you are resource constrained, which means you can offer a ton more features for the same price on cheap smartphones.
And who uses cheap phones? The developing world, who more than anyone need access to modern information. Firefox OS shouldn't have seen itself as competing with Android. It should have seen itself as competing with flip phones. The amount of societal good Mozilla could have done by focusing on being a cheap "next-step" flip phone alternative is astounding. Here's a comment I wrote several years back when the $33 phone came out:
I've been a huge fan of Firefox OS for a long time, but here's something I think many people here aren't realizing: Firefox OS considerably lowers the barriers to entry for app developers.
Firefox OS apps are just html pages in a zip file, so all you need to create one is a text editor and a browser. In fact, Firefox will soon include an IDE, so you don't even need a text editor anymore. I think that will have a massive impact on how many developers will make apps for Firefox OS, especially local developing world apps.
If you only have non-administrator access to a computer in an internet cafe or some other shared computer, you can probably still develop Firefox OS apps since it may already have Firefox installed. Additionally, there's millions of tutorials online about web development, many of which are very beginner friendly and in multiple languages.
This extremely low barrier to entry will allow local communities to easily make apps that cater to just their local needs. Want to know where the best location to get water is? Want to know which farms in the area are hiring? Want to see the local mayor's latest scandalous photo? These all can be coded in a weekend at the local internet cafe.
 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3MU3jxEye8
 - https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Tools/WebIDE
These could also just be implemented as web ... sites.
Also, making a zip file that people can pass around and install locally means you don't need to host it anywhere or have internet access to use it.
Firefox OS was perfect for developers who had more time than money.
> And nearly every platform where web apps would work.
What platforms? Android is too expensive. Feature/flip phones don't run web apps.
So, yes, my point was that FirefoxOS was the only platform that had the potential to offer widespread web app access to this audience. Also, since FirefoxOS web apps could be zip files, they didn't necessarily have to have internet access to run and could be passed around via sneakernet.
Or interpreted another way: "Our agenda is to take technology X and apply it to a problem domain that would not seem like a natural fit for it."
Meanwhile their competitors were trying to out-do each other in trying to produce devices that would satisfy consumers the most (sell more). It was, and remains, a ferocious competition.
If you want success in the marketplace you need to focus on delivering customer value first, and put the technology agenda second (if not way behind other priorities).
I got one of the Mozilla Flame phones back when they came out and loved that device. I'm pissed that now the only option for a viable open source mobile OS I have is Google. But unless there is some unlikely comeback, that is exactly what it will be remembered as.
I disagree with some of the details of what they should have done better. But I do agree that it was too early to end the project and that it definitely had great potential in becomming a niche at least, from which it could grow.
There will even be a device... a Sony: http://www.xperiablog.net/2017/02/27/jollas-sailfish-os-is-o... :-)
No one is forcing you to use Android and there are many alternatives. Additionally, there is no need to use Google services when setting up an Android phone. To be "pissed" that the only option you have is Google just reinforces my belief that Google should have closed sourced it from the beginning. The amount of entitlement some people think they have for an OS that is given away and costs millions to create is bizarre to me.
But you're right that some permissions like complete file access might be a bit too much. They could implement it so that only signed Web apps installed through the app store would get such permissions.
They launched the n9 without marketing and only made it available in secondary markets, but people still beat down a path to get them. Elop also refused to provide sales numbers (instead writing the infamous "burning platform" email), but third party guesstimates are in the 4-8M (for comparison, the subsidized, heavily marketed, easily available S3 sold around 40M units in the same year).
Elop even refused to launch the n950 (aluminum n9 with a great physical keyboard) despite it being ready to go (they shipped around 5K as developer units).
Nokia had the answer. Elop was paid 25 Million to killed it.
Another infuriating thing is that they decided to focus the FirefoxOS on the cheapest smartphone. You have to remember the one who buy these cheap phones, of course they will be concern about their ISP price too. In the end it would be better for them just to buy a feature phones. Eventhough Firefox OS can work offline, most of the advantage of FirefoxOS is on the web interaction. They really should target urban customer
Is there a Moore's Law for every type of physical constraint? As with cheaper and more abundant microprocessors, broadband, storage, etc., it seems like previously unfeasible produces and services become unlocked, the business ideas now feasible. FFOS did not arrive at the right time to reap in the benefits of the rise of Chinese smartphone OEMs, and the growing push-pull between Google and OEMs over Android.
What? Why are chipset manufacturers not permitted to sell to anybody?
Hopefully someone can pick up this project.
Why not try to make the best phone?
(I used a Firefox OS phone as my only mobile device for 2 years)