Firefox OS' Secret Weapon: Apps Will Work on Android Too

The two big reasons why you should be building Firefox OS apps

By on December 12th, 2012 10:01 GMT

Firefox OS is almost here and Mozilla is ramping up efforts to get developers involved. Having a solid set of third-party apps is going to be key to getting Firefox OS off the ground.

The Firefox OS Simulator 1.0 has arrived, making it possible for developers to test their creations in an environment close to the real thing.

Still, the big problem is getting developers interested in Firefox OS and start building for it.

The fact that it's all built around the web and web technologies helps but it doesn't guarantee that devs will start creating for it. There are a couple of things that Mozilla and Firefox OS have going for them.

1. It's all based on web technology, HTML, CSS, JavaScript

Existing web developers will have no trouble learning the basics of creating a Firefox OS app, it's basically just a few new APIs, which deal with the hardware side, and packaging the app, no different than creating a Chrome extension or a Firefox add-on for that matter.

What this means is that people already working on web apps won't have to put too much effort into it. That's not to say they will, but it enhances the chances.

What's more, in many cases, "porting" a mobile website or web app to Firefox OS is trivial, so if you're already building for the web, you might as well create a Firefox OS app.

That said, Firefox OS opens up several interesting capabilities which aren't available from the web, namely the ability to tap into the hardware, the camera, the mic, everything a "native" mobile app would be able to do.

2. Apps will work on Firefox for Android

The interesting thing about Firefox OS, or rather Firefox Marketplace apps is that they'll run in any Firefox, i.e. including on Android and the desktop.

Since the apps are built around pure web technologies, all that's needed is support for the Web API in the Android or desktop Firefox builds.

Android in particular is an interesting proposition. In essence, creating an app for the Firefox Marketplace makes it possible to target both Firefox OS and Android, in one fell swoop, and avoid the Google Play Store in the process.

Granted, Firefox is nowhere near ubiquitous on Android and it's not even the best browser on the platform. Chrome, Opera Mobile, Dolphin browsers and many others are fighting for the spot. But it is an opportunity for devs to grab a bigger piece of the pie without creating a native app for each platform.

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