Mozilla targets mobile browser market

15 Dec, 2004

The Mozilla Foundation claims to be working with various phone manufacturers, who are already using Minimo, a 'mini-Mozilla' browser for consumer devices. The idea behind the project is to move on from Firefox's success in the browser desktop market, to strive with the market for browsers on mobile devices (phones, PDAs).

"If Firefox is the greatest browser on the desktop, we need the greatest browser on devices and are working hard on it," said Doug Turner, the project leader of Minimo. He also said there are two mobile phone companies that are already using Minimo.

This market will be harder to tackle than the desktop browser market, as manufacturers rather than consumers make the choice on which browser to use. "We can showcase things to consumers - to show them what they should get from their phone - but the bigger thing is to show the manufacturers that they can embed Mozilla into their device," said Turner.

Minimo developers have already found a solution to the problem of rendering Web pages on small devices. This feature was included in both version 0.1 and 0.2 of Minimo. Turner claims that this solution is already better than some products in the marketplace. "A lot of browsers ignore frames or have limited Javascript support - they do terrible jobs," said Turner. "With Minimo, if it renders OK in Firefox, it will render OK in Minimo." The technology works by shrinking less important images, such as banner ads, and wrapping columns around to make a single column, so that users only need to scroll vertically.

Minimo 0.3 will include improved Web page navigation for mobile phone users. At present, phone users need to linearly tab through every link on the page to get to the right link, but the new technology will allow users to move between links on the Web page using the arrow keys. Minimo 0.3 will also automatically complete URLs as they are being typed in and the functionality will be improved to allow users to zoom in and out of Web pages.

Minimo's main competitor in the mobile phone browsing market is Opera, which produces versions of its browser for various mobile phones including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens handsets. But Turner said there is definitely a demand for an alternative to Opera from set-top box and phone manufacturers, which don't want to pay royalties. Another advantage of Minimo is that it is fully standards compliant and is compatible with various platforms.

The first demo of this technology is likely to be available before June, said Turner.

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