Mozilla mobile OS may face future patent battles, says expert

'Too little, too late,' adds another analyst

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Aside from Mozilla's potential patent problems, analysts raised other concerns about the B2G project.

"I can't see that at this point, what with Mozilla's timeline, why a year from now we will need another mobile operating system," said Jack Gold, an analyst with J. Gold Associates. "It's too little, too late. It would have been different if they'd started this a year ago. But I can't see [Mozilla] seriously impacting the sales of Android. It has the same chance as MeeGo to succeed."

That open-source, Linux-based mobile operating system, co-developed by Intel and Nokia, was essentially discarded by Nokia earlier this year when it struck a deal with Microsoft to power future smartphones with the Windows Phone platform.

To Gold, Mozilla's move smacked as much as a challenge to Google and its Chrome OS as an attempt to push the foundation's open-Web agenda.

"This is an extension of Mozilla's war against Google," Gold said. "The battle has taken place in the browser, and now it's moving into the browser OS world. This is like a nipping at the heels of Google."

Mozilla has been losing the browser war, Gold said. In the last 12 months, Mozilla's Firefox lost 9% of its usage share, according to metrics company Net Applications. During the same period, Google's Chrome almost doubled its share.

Hilwa was more bullish on Mozilla's long-term chances.

"There is a transformation to move more and more of our data, content and device engagement to the cloud," Hilwa noted. "This means light-weight interfaces on light-weight operating systems have a chance to break through in the next few years."

"But how does Mozilla compete here?" countered Gold. "If you assume that the future OSes will be browser- and Web-centric, then [a Mozilla OS] has some possibilities.... But I don't think you can make that assumption."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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