Mozilla's new CEO puts Firefox OS first

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
31 Mar 2014
00:00
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Mozilla is following in what is becoming a grand tradition in the mobile world – hunting for a new CEO for almost a year and then choosing to promote someone who was there all along. Brendan Eich, a co-founder who has been the browser designer's CTO since 2005, will now take the top spot, and will put the new mobile Firefox OS at the heart of the company's strategy.

Eich may be an inside choice, but his promotion spells change at Firefox, and particularly a redoubled effort behind making the mobile platform a genuine challenger to Google. Some are reporting the move to increase Firefox OS's profile within Mozilla as a move away from its core browser, but of course, it is really an attempt to drive the trend away from the native environments of Android and iOS, and towards cloud-oriented systems where the HTML5 browser takes over most of the role of the operating system.

The new CEO has open web platforms in his blood. He invented JavaScript in 1995, was an early developer of Netscape Navigator, the ancestor of Firefox, and helped set up Mozilla.

He told CNET that he would make Firefox OS the organization's top project. “It's like the great circus act - spinning plates while doing back handsprings, and we are definitely turning mobile in the only way that can be really effective. The highest priority is to get volume to Firefox OS, especially the $25 phones,” he said.

The strategy is to achieve critical mass for the new OS by working closely with operators which want to encourage their feature phone users to move to smartphones – and an environment the carriers can control. But the organization knows the real battle – with other web-focused mobile platforms like Ubuntu and Baidu – will be for broader categories of mobile products, especially ones where there is no established OS leader yet. These will include cloud and post-PC gadgets such as cloudbooks, as well as media and M2M items.

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