Internet application developer Mozilla unveiled its revamped 2012 Strategy & Roadmap this week, demonstrating a desire to move Firefox, the company’s popular Web browser, further into the field of mobile technology. New versions of the browser, and its improved functionality, also appear aimed at making Firefox more competitive with the likes of Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) browser, Chrome, released in late 2008.
A product of open-source software development, Firefox will be getting overhauled to better suit the much-anticipated Windows Phone 8 operating system from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). Windows 8 will include both “Classic” and “Metro” styles, with the latter referring to the simplified touchscreen-oriented interface first developed for Windows Phone 7.
Mozilla will make Firefox more touchscreen friendly while also reducing its bulk to accommodate Windows 8’s partial reliance on low-powered ARM microprocessors. The efficacy of Windows 8 will be a huge metric in deciding where browser technologies will flourish in the mobile sphere, and adapting Firefox to Windows 8 will be necessary if Mozilla wants to remain competitive on Windows devices.
All of this could be good not only for the Mozilla team but also for smartphone adoption, since smartphone users will be able to use familiar tools to navigate the Web. Microsoft also is loading a new version of its Web browser, Internet Explorer, onto its forthcoming smartphones and tablets. In addition, a newly launched Google Chrome app, now available in the Android Market, will eventually become available for all platforms.
In general, mobile browser users are expected to gravitate toward whatever browser they use on their computers, assuming the mobile option offers comparable performance features.
Building a library of Firefox mobile apps
There are further plans to build a library of applications for Firefox, much like what is currently available in the Google Chrome Web Store. The Firefox application store, whose name is rumored to be “Open Web App Store,” will make games and applications available in a manner that’s easy to navigate for a general user. The browser’s add-on, downloadable customization tools will continue to be offered separately and are expected to receive their own update.
Borrowing again from Chrome, Firefox is expected to improve the browser’s synchronization ability, which ideally will allow users to work with the same open tabs, bookmarks, and add-ons when moving between computers and mobile devices.
Mozilla is in a position where it really does need to keep pace with Google. Firefox was the second most popular Web browser worldwide up until last fall, when Chrome moved ahead.
According to StatCounter, Internet Explorer led global browser usage in January of this year with about 37% of the market. Chrome came in second with 28% while Firefox lagged in third place with 25%. Internet Explorer has the advantage of appealing to those not technically savvy, as it comes preloaded into most Windows products. Chrome gets to build upon the powerhouse Google brand. Firefox’s popularity has increased steadily among tech-savvy users but has had little expansion outside that group.
Even though Mozilla is a privately held company, its successes and failures can cause market ripples for its publicly traded competitors. And while it’s unlikely that even a revolutionary Firefox redesign would take down Chrome or Internet Explorer, it could instigate changes to the other browsers. The browser wars have no clearly defined frontrunner, forcing each company to continue retooling its product to retain and attract new users.