Mozilla recently announced it's entering new territory with the development of its own mobile operating system, Boot-to-Gecko.
The company's aim is to develop an operating system for mobile platforms that don't live under a single-vendor stack for application development. Overall, the company is looking to "pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web."
By doing this, Mozilla will go up against the heavy hitters in the mobile OS industry: Apple with iOS, Google with Android and even Microsoft with Windows Phone 7. Mozilla's Andreas Gal, one of the developers on the project, stressed the project is in the early stages and hasn't set a date for completion.
The company acknowledged the challenges ahead of them. The developers will have to create new prototype APIs for exposing device and OS capabilities to content. It will have to create a prototype low-level substrate for an Android-compatible device to even get started.
Naturally, many are skeptical of Mozilla's chances to succeed. For one, the company could face patent issues. Mozilla's plans to use pieces of Android, such as kernel and device drivers, could open it to litigation says Florian Mueller, an independent patent analyst.
"Mozilla may be able to avoid large parts of the IP issues facing Android by using only certain components and building new software on top of it. But the patent thicket is still there," Mueller said to ComputerWorld.
Another analyst pointed out an obvious critique of the Boot to Gecko project: it seems kind of late in the game.
"It's too little, too late. It would have been different if they'd started this a year ago. But I can't see [Mozilla] seriously impacting the sales of Android. It has the same chance as MeeGo to succeed," Jack Gold, an analyst told ComputerWorld.
This is all fair criticism. However, I think Mozilla can succeed and here's why: the company is used to being the underdog.
When Mozilla Firefox launched in 2004 it had ZERO name recognition. It spun off Netscape but to the average user, Mozilla Firefox might as well have been a character from The Lord of the Rings.
Today, it sits in a solid second place with 28 percent share, according to research firm StatCounter. It has gained on Internet Explorer every year and continues to stay competitive despite emerging threats from Google and elsewhere.
There's no reason to think it couldn't do the same with a mobile operating system. When Firefox came about in 2004, Internet Explorer had roughly 90 percent of what was thought to be an established market. Firefox innovated, created a user friendly product and steadily gained.
Boot-to-Gecko could easily accomplish the same in a less established market. After all, the notion of a smartphone operating system (at least the way consumers visualize it today) is only a few years old. Technology is an ever changing landscape.
If Mozilla got a few name partners on board when Boot-to-Gecko launches, the ball could easily get rolling. Word of mouth is essentially how Firefox blew up and it could happen again.