Why no iPhone support for Firefox mobile beta?

Mozilla is making a mistake in supporting only a niche (moribund?) device, Nokia's N810 Internet Tablet, with its nascent Fennec mobile browser.

Mozilla just released the beta test version of Fennec, its mobile Firefox browser. The beta version is still slow and has a ways to go before it can compete with Apple's iPhone-ized Safari browser, but these are forgivable shortcomings, given its beta status.

Fennec logo

No, the real problem with Fennec is that it's available only for one platform: Nokia's N810 Internet Tablet. Who cares about that device?

Seriously, while the rest of the world is experimenting first on the iPhone, why is Mozilla futzing around with a niche platform like Nokia's N810? I don't know a single person who has one, developer or otherwise. Even if Mozilla makes Fennec sing, who is going to care?

More to the point, who is going to help make it sing? Mozilla's desktop Firefox browser has been impressive in its innovations, in part because it marshalls a massive community that enables Mozilla to take advantage of resources otherwise beyond its small staff.

I solicited comment on the choice of platform but have yet to hear back from Mozilla on the matter.

Yes, as CNET reports, there are emulators for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows to help developers get a head start on other platforms. But it's not the same. And, frankly, it's not really useful: Mozilla should be targeting the top platforms for its Fennec releases, not an obscure Internet tablet.

Early on, Fennec (nee "Minimo") was available only for Windows Mobile devices, which further rendered it irrelevant to the crowd most likely to help develop it.

Sure, Apple is unlikely to welcome a competitive browser to the iPhone, but Mozilla is used to swimming against the current. You don't achieve 20 percent market share on Microsoft's Windows fortress unless you know how to build and deliver compelling value.

Ben Feldman, a software developer, noted to me in a Tweet that

Mozilla already said there won't be iPhone or Android versions because of inability/restrictions on running code they need to use. If I remember correctly, it had to do with restrictions on run non-SDK code, and Android is all Java at the moment.

So maybe it's Apple that's to blame.

If so, Mozilla needs to up the public pressure on Apple to open up the iPhone to this sort of development. Firefox is the best browser for personal computers, even better than Apple's Safari. iPhone users shouldn't have to slum with Apple's iPhone-enabled version of Safari if (or when) Mozilla creates something better. Put the pressure on, Mozilla.


Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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