Fancy a cheap alternative to Android? The people behind Firefox have come up with just the thing. It's called Boot to Gecko and it's set to give you the power of a smart phone in a seriously budget-friendly mobile -- powered by HTML5.
The Boot to Gecko platform is developed by Firefox folk Mozilla, who showed it to us working on a Samsung Galaxy S2. It's basically a back-end software platform, which phone networks can adopt and adapt by adding their own front-end interface. Cleverly, it's based on HTML5 so it's open to anyone to build apps just like those on the Web.
European network Telefónica -- which owns O2 -- is the first to put Boot to Gecko in a phone. That phone doesn't have a proper name or release date yet, and currently labours under the title Open Web Device. But that's a rubbish name, so I'm going to call it the Gecko Phone, because gecko is fun to say.
Boot to Gecko is designed using HTML5, the next generation of the language used to design webpages. Because HTML5 is an open standard, anyone can build apps for Gecko with standard tools, unlike for example the iPhone. The iPhone App Store is a walled garden -- Apple builds a fence around its products so that only Apple-approved apps built with Apple-specified tools can get in.
That means a potentially unlimited range of potential apps -- although I suspect it'll be a long time before a Boot to Gecko becomes more than a pet project for coders and hackers, unless networks start punting some seriously cheap phones.
Fingers crossed for that. Although no prices have been confirmed, Telefónica promises the Gecko Phone will be very friendly on the wallet. If Gecko gives smart phone smarts for a feature phone fee, it could provide a serious challenge to Android's dominance of the cheaper end of the market -- and could kill Symbian completely.
I'm a multi-disciplinary designer-strategist at HP. My passion is whole product design: the seamless integration of HW+SW+Web to deliver compelling experiences to users. I'm currently swimming upstream to bring Web 2.0-style community participation to HP's consumer printing business.