Unless you're a real dev-type, the "Milestone Release" of Mozilla's Fennec mobile browser likely was a nonstarter — it's a pre-alpha build and not at all intended to serve as a daily browser just yet. But what it does do is show us that work on the browser is progressing nicely for Windows Mobile.
Fennec developer Brad Lassey, who joined the company in October 2008 to work on mobile products, agreed to answer a few of our burning questions about Fennec. Will it be available for non-touchscreen phones? What's up with Fennec for our cousins over at NokiaExperts? When might we see a proper Windows Mobile beta? And what can we do to help?
Lassey's answers, after the break.
How long has Fennec been in development?
Can you explain a little about the life cycle? What's the difference between a "milestone" release and an alpha or beta release versus the "finished" product?
Final releases are feature complete, polished and have been vetted by Mozilla's QA [quality assurance] team. Beta releases are feature complete and intended for testing while development continues on clean up and general bug fixing. Alpha releases are intended for testing purposes only, while development continues on features that will be in the final release.
Pre-alpha (aka milestone) releases are intended to allow developers to try the in-progress work and report bugs. Milestone's are important for mobile products due the the differences between various hardware platforms. They allow us to get early testing and bug reports on many more devices than we have access to. This particular milestone marks the first time Fennec is buildable for Windows Mobile from a publicly available repository, and we hope that will encourage outside developers to become involved in the project.
We heard on this week's conference call that you're still looking to get the beta out later this month. If that's still on track, do you have a ballpark date for when "common" Windows Mobile users might expect a release?
We've been enjoying the desktop version of Fennec for a while. It scores a 93/100 on the Acid3 test. The mobile build should have the same rendering performance, correct?
Can you speak of the features or overall approach to how Fennec works as compared to to Pocket IE, Opera 9.5, and Skyfire? And mobile Safari on the iPhone side?
We have two major goals that drive our approach in building Fennec. The first is to bring users the same level of web compatibility, security and ease of use that has made Firefox so successful. For example: Fennec uses the same URL bar (the "awesome bar") that was introduced in Firefox 3. Its ease of use has an even bigger impact in Fennec because of the typing it saves the user. We are also working on a feature called Weave which will sync the users history bookmarks and open tabs between all of their desktops, laptops and mobile devices. Finally, Fennec supports the same extension mechanism as Firefox, allowing developers to extend its functionality and users to customize their experience.
You stated in your blog the reasons for using the HTC Touch Pro with this early release. Will Fennec be only for touchscreen devices? And is the Touch Pro being considered a basic minimum hardware standard?
Fennec's running on the Nokia N810, and soon on Windows Mobile. Any other operating systems on the horizon?
As our readers are testing the various pre-releases, what's the best way for them to provide feedback and report bugs?
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Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!