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Firefox for Intel Macs planned for March

Mozilla sets a March launch date for a version of its Web browser that will run on Apple's Intel version of Mac OS X.

The Mozilla Foundation has set a March launch date for a version of its Firefox Web browser that will run on Apple Computer's Intel version of Mac OS X.

"We are targeting the official release of Firefox for Intel Mac OS X in late March with the Firefox update," said Mozilla software engineer Josh Aas told.

Demand for the browser on Apple's new CPU platform is expected to rocket as the PC vendor last week started selling the first Macs based on CPUs from Intel. Previously Apple had used IBM's PowerPC chips.

While an unofficial version of the software is now available on Aas' personal Web site, until Mozilla approves it, the developer recommends those with Intel Macs use Apple's Rosetta technology to run the normal PowerPC Mac OS X version of Firefox.

Rosetta is a transcoding tool that allows programs written for PowerPC to run on Intel machines.

Similar Intel Mac OS X versions of Mozilla's Thunderbird e-mail client and the third-party Camino browser are available from the same site. Camino utilises Mozilla's Gecko Web rendering engine--as does Firefox--and is specifically aimed at full integration with Mac OS X, in the same way as Apple's own Safari browser.

Aas is already satisfied with the quality of the new version, despite some minor bugs that need to be worked out.

"The port has been very successful and we have native versions running very well on Intel Macs," he said. "There are two minor issues to resolve before we can do an official release."

"The first issue is some compatibility issues between the (Macromedia) Flash plugin shipped with Mac OS X 10.4.4 and Firefox. We have been working closely with Macromedia to resolve the issues."

The other issue relates to the need to update to an Intel version of the 'Java Embedding Plugin' (JEP), which handles all Java applets in Mozilla's Mac OS X products.

Aas said his unofficial builds "should work just fine with the exceptions of Java and Flash, which will both be entirely disabled for now."

The unofficial version is to be used at users' own risk, and is "not recommended by the Mozilla Corporation or Foundation," he warned.

The developer added he was grateful to Apple for assistance in the development process, as well as JEP's developer Steven Michaud, and another developer Mark Mentovai.

The first development versions of Firefox for the Intel version of Mac OS X were first made available in July last year.

Renai LeMay of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.