Thoughts on Boot to Gecko

This week Mozilla announced the intention to deliver an open device based on the Boot to Gecko (B2G) project in 2012.

When I first heard of B2G, I’ve got to admit I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. It looked very much like what Palm had tried and failed to do with webOS, just a few years later. The more I hear about it, though, the more compelling it seems to be.

I think Mozilla’s timed this very well; whilst the web has been seen more and more as a development platform rather than a straight content delivery system for a while, it’s not been a viable one until recently, and in my opinion it’s still not totally viable on mobile devices. Up until now, in order to be able to run web applications with any sort of decent performance (the sort that consumers have come to expect from the standards that the iPhone has set), you have typically needed a relatively high end system-on-chip to power the thing.

Fast forward to 2012 and there’s a plethora of high performance SoCs available at relatively low cost; B2G devices can be targeted towards the lower end of the smartphone market, whilst still exhibiting good performance. And unlike all the other low end smartphone platforms currently out there, the platform is already well established and the cost of bringing applications to it should be relatively low compared to others. To take a real world example, look at the iPhone 3GS. This is currently positioned by Apple as their low end smartphone, but when running iOS 5 the experience is dismal compared to their flagship phone. This is the sort of phone that any B2G device will be up against, not models like the 4S.

In fact, Telefonica said that they’re hoping to price the B2G phone at “ten times cheaper than an iPhone”, which would suggest that the off-contract price would be around $60 – $70. This is huge for a smartphone that would conceivably be competing with something like the 3GS, which currently sells for $375 off-contract.

What gives me the most confidence, though, is that people responded to the demos very well, and we’re not even done yet. There’s a lot of optimisation work that can and needs to be done, and there’s no reason why we can’t have a user experience comparable to the incumbents in the industry.

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