LolaTheriotFirefox for Mobile Browser Runs on Nokia N900

Mozilla has launched a mobile version of its Firefox browser for the users of Nokia’s N900 smartphone, which runs the handset maker’s high-end Maemo operating system. And it’s built on the same engine as Firefox 3.6 for PCs.

According to the developers, the new mobile browser is currently available for download in more than 30 languages, with support for more smartphone platforms and languages on the way.

It’s the next step of Mozilla’s mission of providing one web that everyone can access — regardless of device or location, Mozilla blogger Erica Jostedt said Friday. “Key design principles are at the heart of the mobile browsing experience, including minimal typing, seamless synchronization with desktop Firefox, and the ability to take your Firefox with you, to name a few,” Jostedt wrote.

Expanding the Market

According to Gartner, the fledgling mobile browser market represents a huge opportunity for browser makers, since smartphones accounted for about 14 percent of the estimated 1.2 billion mobile devices shipped last year. The new mobile version of Firefox is intended in part to help counter the browser’s slowing growth on desktop and notebook PCs. According to Net Applications, Google’s Chrome browser outpaced Firefox by increasing its market share from 1.6 percent to 5.2 percent since March, even as Firefox boosted its share from 23.3 percent to 24.4 percent.

Mozilla is hoping to expand the browser market by bringing a full-fledged browser experience to smartphones, beginning with the N900. Though the world’s leading handset maker has not released any sales numbers for the smartphone so far, Nokia did say the device has been positively received.

Due to the N900’s fairly expensive price, however, Gartner expects the device to be of interest to technology lovers rather than a product destined for the mass market, noted Research Director Carolina Milanesi.

According to Milanesi, “What it does is to show the potential of the Maemo platform for the next-generation device, which should be in the market in the second half of the year”. Moreover, the Gartner analyst thinks the appeal of the platform “will be higher” once Nokia’s OVI Store gains “some traction as an ecosystem.”

Playing YouTube Videos

According to Mozilla, it’s currently investigating the development of a mobile Firefox version for smartphones running Google’s Android operating system and indicated that smartphones running Windows Mobile are also possible. Jostedt wrote, “We will continue to investigate and consider other platforms that can support the full Firefox experience”.

Still, the browser maker admits the door is currently closed to developing a browser for Apple’s iPhone. Moreover, smartphones from Research In Motion are out of bounds because Firefox’s Java-based operating system is not compatible with RIM’s Blackberry OS.

Firefox for the N900 introduces support for add-ons that anyone can build and distribute to bring new features to the mobile browser. For example, N900 owners can customize Firefox by adding language translators, AdBlock Plus, TwitterBar and even an enabler for watching the latest YouTube videos. However, the mobile browser does not yet offer a plug-in for Adobe Flash.

“The Adobe Flash plug-in used on many sites degraded the performance of the browser to the point where it didn’t meet our standards,” Jostedt wrote. “We are working on an add-on that will allow the user to have control of which sites to enable plug-ins for.”

For the Nokia N900, Mobile Firefox offers support for touch-interface capabilities such as quick zoom, panning and scrolling. Tabs and browser controls are on the sides of the screen to enable the user to see entire web pages.

Additionally, a new technology called Weave Sync is on tap for synchronizing the user’s Firefox history, saved passwords, bookmarks and open tabs between computers and the Nokia N900.

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