Mozilla, Telefónica Collaborate on Web Phone

Telefónica and Mozilla said they are collaborating on building a new mobile phone architecture based entirely on HTML5.

The effort combines Mozilla's Boot-to-Gecko project, first announced last year, with a development effort that Telefónica had nearly simultaneously kicked off internally, the companies said.

They said that the platform will allow phone functions including calling, messaging and browsing to be developed as HTML5 applications and run in an environment based on the Firefox browser.

HTML5 is just starting to be used by developers of mobile apps. The benefit of using the web technology is that the apps look and feel like native apps but are more easily ported to multiple mobile phone platforms.

However, HTML5 so far is typically used for discrete applications, like games. Mozilla and Telefónica said that the technology can be used to build all phone functions including calling. They plan to enable HTML5 apps that access core phone APIs.

The companies said that the result of their work will be a feature-rich prototype platform that will offer smartphone capabilities at a feature phone price. "From our experience in Latin America we know that a huge part of the market is not being catered for by current smartphones. With new open Web devices we will be able to offer a smartphone experience at the right price point for these customers," Carlos Domingo, director of product development and innovation at Telefónica Digital, said in a statement.

They plan to submit their reference architecture to the W3C for standardization and aim to include no proprietary APIs. They did not disclose a timeline.

The companies are working with Qualcomm to use that company's chips. Adobe said it supports the project.

Mozilla first started talking about Book-to-Gecko in July, when it announced it would build a mobile OS that runs applications primarily on the web. Its goal was to make it easier for developers to build web apps that are equal in functionality to the native apps built on the mobile platforms. At the time the company said it didn't plan to only allow apps to run in Firefox, but Monday's press release indicates that plan may have changed.

This is one of the most ambitious mobile projects from Mozilla, which has many times tried to build mobile browsers only to abandon its efforts.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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