Mozilla Stops Development Of Firefox For Windows Mobile

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Development of a version of Firefox that would run on Windows Mobile has been halted, with Mozilla blaming Microsoft’s development restrictions

A Mozilla executive has confirmed that it will stop work on a version of Firefox for Windows Mobile, because Microsoft is apparently preventing the development of native applications for its upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series.

“We have been building a version of Firefox for Windows Mobile for quite a while, with the expectation that Microsoft would be doubling down in the mobile market and hoping they would put out a great new mobile operating system,” Stuart Parmenter, Mozilla’s Director of Mobile, wrote in a 22 March posting on the Blog.Pavlov.Net blog. For that build, Mozilla had been using Windows CE6, the platform undergirding the Windows Phone 7 Series, which is expected to roll out at some unannounced point near the end of 2010.

As a result, Mozilla saw itself as “well positioned to have an awesome browser on Windows Phone 7,” Parmenter added. That is, until Microsoft apparently decided to “close off development to native applications” on its new platform.

“Because of this, we won’t be able to provide Firefox for Windows Phone 7 at this time,” Parmenter concluded. “Given that Microsoft is staking their future in mobile on Windows Mobile 7 (not 6.5) and because we don’t know if or when Microsoft will release a native development kit, we are putting our Windows Mobile development on hold.”

In the meantime, Mozilla plans to disable the builds and test automation, and direct resources towards development for products such as Google Android.

Windows Phone 7 Series will utilise Silverlight and XNA for building applications and 3D games for the upcoming Windows Phone Marketplace, Microsoft announced at its recent MIX 10 conference.

But Microsoft intends Windows Phone 7 Series to be a clean break from previous versions of its smartphone operating-system franchise, which has been steadily losing US market-share in the face of stiff competition from the likes of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, Apple’s iPhone, and Google Android. As part of that, current Windows Mobile applications will not be compatible with Windows Phone 7 Series.

“We do recognise that there are a lot of folks who have been writing apps for Windows Mobile for some time,” Larry Lieberman, senior product manager for Microsoft’s Mobile Developer Experience, told eWEEK in a 15 March interview. “But we recognise that the landscape has changed, and as we’ve been looking at stuff, we had to drastically change our game, and really the only way to do that was to look at what we are offering and what we could do to address this in a competitive accelerated manner.”

At least part of the lack of an upgrade path for applications, Lieberman added, was the timing required to push Windows Phone 7 Series to market. “This product was delivered in an incredibly accelerated timeframe,” he said. “If we’d had more time and resources, we may have been able to do something in terms of backward compatibility.”

Originally revealed during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on 15 February, Windows Phone 7 Series takes a different approach to its user interface than many other smartphones currently on the market.

Instead of the “pages of mobile applications” format utilised by Google Android and the iPhone, Microsoft’s upcoming devices will instead feature “hubs” that aggregate web content and mobile applications into subject-specific screens such as “Office,” “Games,” and “Pictures.” Like the iPhone at its launch, Windows Phone 7 Series will lack the ability to cut, copy, and paste text; in addition, engineers from Microsoft and Adobe are actively collaborating on how to integrate Flash Player 10.1 into Internet Explorer Mobile on the devices, but neither company has offered a definite date for Flash support.

Microsoft executives have also insisted that the company will support Windows Mobile 6.x and other devices that run previous versions of its smartphone operating system.

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