HUA HIN, Thailand - Mozilla, whose Firefox is the world's second-most popular
web browser, has begun working on an operating system of its own to run on
mobile phones and tablets. Programers are developing a system called Boot to
Gecko (B2G), which will be loosely based on Google's Android but will
essentially compete with it when it comes into fruition.
Gecko is the rendering engine that powers Firefox and Thunderbird, Mozilla's
e-mail client; the software converts web code into displayable content. The new
operating system will be completely open source and code will be released in
real time, giving developers complete freedom to work on applications and
In contrast, rival platforms from Microsoft and Apple are completely closed
systems and totally inflexible from the strict
parameters set by their developers. Google's Android is somewhere between the
two, offering some openness but still dependent on approval from Google for
third-party applications. This results in a very fragmented mobile landscape
where there are huge holes in compatibility between the current platforms.
Mozilla's "boot to web" project builds on its open web standards ethos, which
encourages complete autonomy from huge corporations that lock users into their
own ecosystems, or in their own words; "breaking the stranglehold of
proprietary technologies over the mobile device world". Boot to Gecko, if
successful, will enable apps developed with it to function on all devices,
unlike the current glut of apps that work only on iPhones or on Android.
The new project is still in its infancy and company developers are calling for
support from open source specialists to help them build the new OS that could
take a slice out of Google and Apple's ever-increasing pie. If successful,
Gecko could be a game changer.
Following news of entire counterfeit Apple stores operating in Kunming,
southern China (see
Apple harvest doubles, Asia Times Online, July 23, 2011), customers
have returned to the stores that remained open, demanding refunds and claiming
ignorance of the fact that the fruity company had genuine mainland outlets only
in Beijing and Shanghai.
The Chinese government closed two of the phony shops for not having business
permits but another three were allowed to continue doing business. One employee
told Reuters that "there is no Chinese law that says I can't decorate my store
the way I want to decorate it" in reference to the logos and name, uncannily
similar to those of Apple, plastered on the shop front.
Chinese officials have stated that although the stores are not the real thing,
the iPhones, iPads and MacBooks inside them certainly are and have been
purchased from authorized resellers inside the country.
Apple has yet to comment, aside from claiming that its four official stores in
China, two in Beijing and two in Shanghai, are now the most heavily trafficked
Apple stores in the world. They also generate the most revenue by attracting
hoards of young Chinese aficionados, which helps the stores outsell even the
Fifth Avenue Apple Store in Manhattan, New York. Revenue in Greater China was
US$3.8 billion for the quarter, 13% of Apple's total income for the period.
Microsoft this week released the next version of its Windows phone operating
system to handset producers for testing. The release to manufacturing (RTM)
build of Windows Phone 7.5, dubbed "Mango", is one of the final steps before it
becomes available to consumers as an update.
The long-awaited overhaul includes more than 500 new features, such as better
integration with Twitter and social networks, group messaging, pictures
history, app multi-tasking, enhanced 3D visual technology, expanded Xbox Live
connectivity, and IE9.
A strong partnership with Nokia may see Microsoft claw back some of that lost
market share from Apple and Google. Mango-powered mobile devices are expected
to hit the shelves later this year. The arrangement may also help a faltering
Nokia, whose share of the smartphone market, in which it remains leader, has
declined to 24% in this year's first quarter from 40% a year earlier, according
to IMS Research.
Just weeks after Google said it was holding back on allowing companies to use
its social network, Google+, rival Facebook has launched its own business guide
Facebok.com/business is touted as an online education center that advises
businesses how to set up a profile, create targeted advertising, and interact
with clients and followers.
Google's heavy-handed approach of preventing corporate brand building, deleting
company accounts and purging those registered with pseudonyms angered many
businesses and potential new members of the fledgling social network.
Facebook's new business page does not actually offer any new features, it just
puts all of the information in one handy place.
A company spokesperson stated "Facebook allowed small businesses to create rich
social experiences, build lasting relationships and amplify the most powerful
type of marketing - word of mouth."
Internet analyst Hitwise reported that Google+ was starting to see a slight
decline in traffic and time spent on the social network just a month after it
was launched. If the search giant wants to lure users away from Facebook, it
needs to start being a little less authoritarian with its terms and conditions
and start working on that business edition.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.