Hot off the Rumor Mill: Mobile Firefox for Android

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Last week, Google released an Android SDK that allows code to run natively on Android devices. Until this SDK, code could only run on a sandboxed version of Java known as the Dalvik virtual machine. Although Google Senior Software Engineer, David Turner, warned in his blog that native Android apps would have many limitations, this isn't scaring off Mozilla, reports CNet.

A year ago, Mozilla executives said that they weren't much interested on Android because of the Java constraint (and, remember, this version of Java has been loudly pooh-poohed by Java's creator) and because Android already had a browser.

But with the new SDK,Mozilla's vice president of mobile, Jay Sullivan, says the organization is reevaluating whether it should build a version of its mobile Firefox browser, called Fennec, for Android. The article says:

"Developers are taking a look at the NDK to see if it provides the capabilities we need to bring Fennec to Android. If it's possible, I think our community would be interested in doing it, because Android will be appearing on more smartphones with the capabilities to provide a good browsing experience," said Jay Sullivan, Mozilla's vice president of mobile."

Android ships with a browser based on the WebKit project, which is also the source for Chrome, as well as Apple's Safari and iPhone browser.

But SDS or not, Mozilla could have a difficult time in creating a native Android browser. Turner warns in a blog post,

"Keep in mind that using the NDK will not be relevant for all Android applications. As a developer, you will need to balance its benefits against its drawbacks, which are numerous! Your application will be more complicated, have reduced compatibility, have no access to framework APIs, and be harder to debug. That said, some applications that have self-contained, CPU-intensive operations that don't allocate much memory may still benefit from increased performance and the ability to reuse existing code. Some examples are signal processing, intensive physics simulations, and some kinds of data processing."

Right now, Mozilla is concentrating on Fennec on two platforms: Fennec 1.0 Alpha 2 for Windows Mobile and Fennec 1.0 Beta 2 for Maemo, used by the Nokia N810 and N800 Internet tablets. Below is a video that shows off the alpha version of Fennec.

Would Android phones be more attractive if users eventually had the option of the Fennec browser?

This story, "Hot off the Rumor Mill: Mobile Firefox for Android" was originally published by Network World.

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