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25

Mozilla puts hold on Firefox development for Windows Mobile 6.5/Windows Phone 7. Open source fails again.

Color us surprised (not really).

The Mozilla team, who have been talking about a mobile browser for Windows Mobile since January 2008, have at least temporarily pulled the plug on Mobile Firefox aka Fennec for Windows Mobile 6.5 and any future iterations e.g. Phone 7 Series.

They cite the obvious changing landscape between the two platforms and the "closed" nature of WP7s as reasons for the "hold" on development. They forgot to mention the slow-as-molasses part.

While we here at WMExperts have always been fond of the promise of a Mobile Firefox, we've been more impressed with the delivery of such a product from Opera Mobile, who have routinely developed and improved upon the browsing experience without fanfare, hype, "milestones" or the chaos that often results from an open source attempt.

Sure, Mobile Firefox could have been a good thing, but it's been 2 years since Mozilla committed themselves to a serious mobile browser. Two years! To which we reply with, "Sorry we don't have time to wait, we're moving on." Microsoft built a whole mobile OS within the last year whereas Mozilla can't get us decent milestones for their browser. 

Sorry fellas, we would have missed you a year ago had you succeeded. But now, it's hard to miss vaporware.

[via Techie Buzz]

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Reader comments

Mozilla puts hold on Firefox development for Windows Mobile 6.5/Windows Phone 7. Open source fails again.

25 Comments

Huh? This is really bad for Windows Mobile. It comes on top of recent departures of Adobe and Skype from the platform. It represents the diminishing focus on Windows Mobile, as Microsoft casts all its efforts to WP7S.

Microsoft hasn't built a whole OS in the past year. WP7S is still not finished, and will probably be another year away from hitting the stores. It may not be finished at release time either, if essential functions such as copy and paste are missing when it goes on sale.

Adobe *is* working with Microsoft on WP7s for Flash support, they just stopped on WM6.5, which is quite okay in book since Flash Lite barely runs well on these devices.

The Skype thing is not so much about WinMo but more about Verizon and I'm not sure they're "out" of the WP7s game as they have said nothing on that end.

Opera, Skyfire, Bolt ....

Fennec never really ran all that great from the builds we DID see, and it was promising to be an app that ate 15-20MB of device memory. Never really was at the top of my list and from what I've seen in the other mobile feeds out there Fennec is being pulled because Mozilla is throwing a tantrum over the WP7s SDK -- they refuse to play in Microsoft's sandbox and want the Native development kit ... as in bypass all those safety checks that will make WP7s a nice stable OS.

I don't know about you, but I prefer the Windows XP/Windows 7 model to the Windows 95/98 model for Microsoft. When Microsoft locks down the sandbox, things tend to run a little better.

Hhmm... You forgot to mention Windows Millenium and Vista, which I think that's where WP7 stands.

As for Firefox, oh well. I cannot say I miss it in WM because it has never been there.

Not really -
Millenium was essentially the 95/98 kernel, while Vista and Windows7 are nearly the same kernel - still off the NT kernel.

The difference I'm mentioning is the access to hardware issue - managed code, like .NET it's pretty difficult to take the OS down where as native code it's a lot easier to do that.

On my phone, I would prefer everything in managed code so the darn thing actually rings if a call comes in while, say, firefox is maxing out the CPU rendering a webpage.

--

But I'm probably one of 5 people that saw Vista as a decent OS that was dogged by poor marketing.

I'm with you on the managed code part. I'd much rather see apps in Silverlight/XNA, then when OS updates come and later on down the line we can get WP8s on our phones we'll know our apps will keep on working because they're managed code.

I see on other sites people posting that redoing the rendering engine from C++ to C# isn't worth it or w/e. But even with access to native code in WM6.x it's not like they got all that far anyways.

Back when RIM bought Torch Mobile, the loss of the Iris browser hurt a little. Fennec? Not at all. Good riddance.

Mozilla has done a horrible job with Firefox mobile. The two alphas I tried were unusable after nearly two years of development. It was bloated and buggy. Looks to me like Mozilla realized they can't put a half desent Firefox on WinMo and is using this as an excuse.

I suspect that things were not going well with the development effort and at some point they have to consider the rapidly diminishing market share of WinMo. Better to focus development efforts on a platform on its way up.

open source fails again?!
are you freaking nuts?
you are comparing Microsoft, THE LARGEST software company in the world with potentially unlimited resources to Mozilla, a non-profit organization, with limit amount of resources?
and you are bitching that ms managed to deliver a new OS while Mozilla couldn't get a browser done?
oh boy, you are ignorant.

why don't you take a look at source code commits and see how many developers actually worked on fennec in addition to Firefox mobile, and compare it to the number of developers working on WinMo7.

Mozilla are not big enough to invest their resources in developing an acceptable user experience for the 3rd if not 4th ranked platform.(iphone, android, symbian)
considering limitations of WinMo(6.x with their retarded requirements for embedded sql db and wps7 with lack of native code development kit.) they can't invest resources into either a dieing OS or not-ready OS to get such little in return.

plus what are you bitching about? Firefox mobile is open source. take that source code, finish whatever needs to be done and you'll have yourself a browser. oh you can't do that? then shut up and be grateful for what you already have.

@ Mixx

Sorry, I have no respect for a company that 2 years ago said it would deliver on a browser and then failed to release.

That's just bad management of the team as they didn't even come close to releasing anything usable by the community.

Point is Open source has it's place in the world. This was not one of them and the evidence is overwhelming that this model failed. As Gregory points out above, the WM environment is *very* conducive to programming, it doesn't get much more open than the current system and yet they still could not do it.

How many browsers have been released by *other* companies on the WM platform since Mozilla committed? Two, three? These were no-name startups and they gave us a usable browser e.g. Torch, Skyfire.

If Mozilla is not "big enough" then they should have never got in the game. And note, I'm not "bitching" about them, I'm just slamming the door on their ass on the way out with a big "thanks for nothing!". I don't need to be grateful, we have Opera and Skyfire already which set the bar quite high for mobile browsers.

Oh and personal attacks won't get you very far on this blog, just FYI.

If you want to compare apples to apples, compare the development teams for PocketIE to Firefox. The WP7S team had a few more things than just a browser to build

Or more appropriately, compare Mozilla to another company who have released several browser builds without Microsoft's money - compare the timelines for Opera with Mozilla. Lots of browsers, even customized ones and near as I can tell they're making their money off partnerships.

Sounds like another company --- wasn't Mozilla originally backed by another small, nameless company for a while ... called GOOGLE. Oh right, then they went and made their own OS (hey in less time than it took Mozilla to release a browser), stealing er utilizing open source componments. Then they put a knife in the back of Mozilla and cut off their funding.

About the can't support every platform argument: Explain Firefox Windows, Firefox MacOS, Firefox Linux, Firefox BSD, Firefox for Android (wait didn't they scrap that oh wait it's back), Firefox for ....


Yes it's open source - and this project failed. Windows Mobile 6.5 is not a very hostile programming environment. You can build the browser for WM5.0, use SQLLite if MSSQL bugs you and it'll run quite happily on WM6.5....

They bit off more than they can chew and that's that. WM6.5 is not dead yet - for all intents and purposes it is the enterprise build until WP7S comes up with one - likely two years for that.

Whine whine whine whine whine...

And MS has destroyed all the Open Source movements to make linux a daily OS for the end user...

How many netbooks were returned because people didn't want to deal with linux? Didn't Dell say 70%+ of them?

Anyway, you missed the point. Skyfire and Opera have less people behind them, and both came out with far better browsers.

Ehh no, people returned a netbook with linux on them, got one with better spec and xp for the same price and installed linux on them, simple.

Also i think it's grate that Mozilla will not waste it breath and a OS that will fail and have 1% of the users on the mobile market. Oh and if you compile firefox with gcc it can run on every OS native, that is why firefox will work on, Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD,NetBSD etc.

Oh and one last thing, you guys seriously don't think that Mobile IE haven been coded in native code?

Seriously dude, you need a dose of reality.

The linux spec'd machines were usually the same hardware, and cheaper... Only a few had nicer hardware and windows only.

OS that will fail? If you're talking about iWP7 then I agree with you... Otherwise if you are talking about 6.5, I think you need that dose of reality from before.

If you don't think that they have OS specific code than your stupid.
The compiler isn't making all your GTK stuff into Windows UI stuff or cocoa stuff.
And netbooks were returned because users did not want linux.

I don't see what all the fuss is about. WM 6.5 is effectively dead after the WP7S announcement, so there's no point in wasting resources in further development for the platform as, Adobe and Skype have demonstrated. There won't be any new apps of significance for 6.x, Firefox or otherwise.

I'm sticking with my aging STP until the Evo 4G hits the streets, and while I'm certainly not holding out for Fennec (Android's stock browser is fine), Android is the logical target for Mozilla to channel its efforts.

I don't remember if I said this before, but I'll say it anyway: Comments like this are hugely misleading. As if Adobe Flash and Skype (and Fennec) decide whether an OS dies or not...

In actuality, how important was Fennec to WM6.x phones? Not very much at all; as pointed out, there are plenty of good browsers for it that render Fennec unnecessary. How important was official Skype support? Again, not very much at all; the last official app is still floating around out there and there are a few IM clients that support Skype, too. How important is Flash? Yet again, not very much at all. I think the only mobile OS planned to get it right now is Android and that's only if they meet system requirements; plenty of phones have gone without it quite fine. So, as I alluded, WM6.x can live on without these 3 things.

IMHO, if WM6.x gets more hardware like that found in the HD2 or better, that'd keep it alive longer. Also, if MS continues to work on it to make it sort of like what most people hoped WP7 was going to be, that'd definitely give it more hope, especially if they have chassis requirements for the next revision, like they're going to with WP7. If this were done, these 3 (and everyone else) would be pretty stubborn/idiotic to not come back, continue, or start.

I wasn't arguing that the lack of any one particular application spells the death of a platform, nor that an OS is useless without new apps. I'm still using my Treo Pro until the Evo 4G comes out, and I'm not anxious to get rid of it in the interim.

Certainly, an official Skype client isn't critical. I happen to think Flash matters a lot more than fans of Steve Jobs would argue. I subscribe to courseware that's delivered in Flash video, and WM Experts, to name one non-obscure example, not only embeds non-YouTube Flash videos, but has an embedded podcast player that requires Flash; so it's short-sighted for critics to dismiss Flash as a collection of annoying ads and YouTube videos.

Let me clarify what I meant by effectively dead. WM6.x is certainly no less functional than ever, but third-party developer support for it has pretty much ground to a halt. If you're happy with WM's backlist of apps, there's no problem, but if there's virtually no hope of new apps on the horizon. Dropbox, for instance, is releasing mobile clients for Android and iPhone, but not WM. Before, if an innovative application appeared on one platform, it was only a matter of time before you saw same or similar application appear on WM. That will no longer be the case.

I wasn't arguing that WM needs Fennec, only that it was silly to rant about Mozilla choosing not to commit further resources into developing for a deprecated platform. Outside of XDA and the hobbyist community, developers have agreed that any more time spent on WM would be time wasted.

very nicely put.
every single point is exactly what i think about WinMo6.

Hi, Particulate in this case what i believe is, One of the main feature of the web browser is that it comes around with support for add-ons, something that no other solution offers to users. The add-ons enable any Maemo-based device owner to customize the browser via the over 40 add-ons that are already available for download on Mozilla