Mozilla Cancels Firefox Development on Windows Mobile

By Craig Buckler
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Mozilla Firefox MobileMozilla has decided to stop all development of Firefox on Microsoft Windows Mobile. Although the browser was nearing completion on Windows CE 6, the organization has determined that Windows Phone 7 is not a viable platform for future versions of Firefox.

Microsoft has been excitedly promoting it’s Windows Phone 7 Series since it was announced in February. The company believes it has created the hardware and software to compete with Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, Palm’s Pre and other modern smartphones.

Phones will not be released until later this year, but it appears Microsoft will be following a similar marketing model to Apple’s App Store. Applications can only be developed using the Silverlight or XNA Game Studio runtime environments. Unfortunately for Mozilla, third-party developers will not have direct access to the phone’s hardware.

Stuart Parmenter, Mozilla’s director of Mobile Engineering posted the following comment on his blog:

While we think Windows Phone 7 looks interesting and has the potential to do well in the market, Microsoft has unfortunately decided to close off development to native applications. Because of this, we won’t be able to provide Firefox for Windows Phone 7 at this time. Given that Microsoft is staking their future in mobile on Windows Mobile 7 (not 6.5) and because we don’t know if or when Microsoft will release a native development kit, we are putting our Windows Mobile development on hold.

There’s a slim possibility Mozilla could become an application partner and gain full access to the platform, but this seems unlikely given that Microsoft will want to push the Internet Explorer browser and brand.

So where does this leave Mozilla’s Fennec project? It’s undoubtedly a great browser but it’s only available on Nokia’s top-end N900 and N810 smartphones. An Android version is in the early stages of development, but the organization will have no presence on iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian, or Microsoft devices. It’s an ambitious project so it’s a shame so few people can actually use the application.

If Mozilla want to be in the mobile browser market, I’d suggest they follow Opera’s lead and create a simpler browser which can be installed on a wide range of popular devices. More advanced applications can be developed when the market is ready for them.

Is Mozilla right to abandon Windows Mobile development? Is this the beginning of the end for the Fennec project?

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  • James

    I don’t know the full ins-outs of Microsofts’ development strategy for third parties but it seems like they are ‘locking it down’ and making it only viable for them to develop for it.

    Seems a little anti-competition to me but I am also aware there is probably a way for Mozilla to get their browser working across many phone OS’ perhaps by reducing application complexity as suggested by the article, “follow Opera’s lead and create a simpler browser”

  • Thanks James.

    I don’t think MS are being particularly anti-competitive. I’d be amazed if they were as restrictive as Apple.

    Besides, Mozilla probably could develop a Silverlight version of Firefox, but it’s probably not worth considering yet. The phones might be a huge success or a massive failure. Mozilla don’t need to gamble.

    However, an Opera-Mini-like browser for Nokia and/or Blackberry mobiles could be run on hundreds of millions of phones today. Opera is very established in that market, but if Mozilla want a decent mobile presence that’s what they need to do.

  • hindins

    Hiya, a wee typo in para two “The company believes it has created the hardware and software to complete with Apple’s iPhone,” I think you wanted compete?

  • I’m not sure why Mozilla wouldn’t look at building a Silverlight version of Mozilla.

    Apple wants you to use Cocoa. Microsoft wants you to use Game XNA or Silverlight. That’s their decision.

    Difference is, Apple will black ball your app if it competes with their built-in apps (oh, please save us from evil duplicate functionality, Apple).

    Doesn’t *sound* like MS are doing that here.

    To be honest, I’m not entirely clear on what the limitations of building Firefox in Silverlight are, but I think just get in there and getcha hands dirty, Moz.

  • Craig S

    Mozilla had years and they failed to make real progress with their browser on WM. You can tell their heart was not in it. Let them try their luck with Maemo.

  • No doubt they could make a nice browser for Maemo. Or Moblin. Or LiMo.

    But building for another Linux-based mobile OS that isn’t Android? Is that a battle worth winning?