Mozilla says a mobile version of Firefox for Linux and Windows Mobile should arrive by the end of the year. The firm hopes this mobile browser will be able to stir up the market just like Firefox did in 2004.
"Mozilla's mission is to break open a closed market," said Mike Schroepfer, Mozilla's vice president of engineering, during a visit to London earlier this week. But "it won't happen overnight."
The impact, however, will be felt before year's end. By then, Mozilla is aiming to release a mobile browser for two operating systems: embedded Linux and Microsoft's Windows Mobile.
At this point, operators and carriers "want to know how much it will cost," Schroepfer said. That's an easy answer: mobile Firefox will be free, Schroepfer said.
But the introduction of a free mobile browser is potentially threatening to some operators. Some handset manufacturers and carriers rigidly control applications and services, maximizing their revenue by creating so-called "walled gardens" where only their own for-fee services can be accessed.
Those carriers will have to be wooed to allow their subscribers to download mobile Firefox. "I think that some carriers will basically fight this kicking and screaming, and some will embrace it and move ahead quickly," said Christian Sejersen, who is head of Mozilla's mobile engineering group in Copenhagen.
Sejersen recently traveled to Japan and Korea to speak with manufacturers and operators. In Japan, operators said their subscribers transmit three to four times more data when allowed to browse the open Web than they do when kept in a walled garden. That opens the door for more data transmission revenue, but also could make operators merely a commoditized "pipe" to the Internet.