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Nokia Rumored To Be Funding Mozilla Project

By Elizabeth Millard
Jun 18, 2004 10:09 AM PT

Allegedly, Nokia has given funds to the Mozilla Foundation to develop a browser that can run on small devices such as mobile phones and PDAs. The project, named Minimo, already has a workable prototype.

Nokia Rumored To Be Funding Mozilla Project

Both Mozilla and Nokia have declined to comment on the funding agreement, but Nokia has noted that it has considered a variety of options in the browser arena to bring the technology to its handhelds. Most of the company's products currently use Opera's smartphone browser.

The Mozilla Foundation will not confirm the Nokia funding. A spokesperson there told LinuxInsider, "Someone said something they shouldn't have [to the press]." However, the spokesperson did not deny that the funding occurred.

Finding Minimo

The Minimo -- shorthand for "Mini Mozilla" -- project focuses on code size and runtime footprint reduction, which makes it able to be ported to small consumer devices.

According to the Mozilla project site, the group hopes to make Minimo the browser of choice on small devices or machines with limited resources.

Posted on Friday, the latest update is Minimo 0.1, the first public preview release of a small device browser. Based on the 1.7a Mozilla code base, the release includes improvements to the security protocol, layout optimizations and further code-size and memory-footprint reduction.

Funding Infusion

If Nokia did give funds to the Foundation, it would be a handy grant infusion for the organization.

However, it would not be the first check that the Foundation has been fortunate to cash. Last year, America Online pledged US$2 million to help the independent nonprofit group.

Also last year, Mitch Kapor, chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, made a personal contribution of $300,000, and Red Hat and Sun Microsystems noted that they would continue their contributions to the Mozilla project.

The Mozilla Foundation used the money to continue expansion on the efforts of mozilla.org, the group managing the daily operations of the Mozilla project since its inception.

Browser Battles

Mozilla browsers make up a small fraction of the market, although its latest effort, Firefox, has gotten favorable attention from users. Still, Mozilla will have much work ahead to make a name for itself in the general browser space and with Minimo.

"Every once and awhile you see an interesting browser pop up and get a tiny bit of interest, but there's a lot of inertia in the market," Gartner analyst David Smith told LinuxInsider.

Basically, he noted, users tend to stick to conventional browser choices rather than stray toward newer browsers, even if the features are more compelling.

"I don't see anything on the horizon that's going to change Internet Explorer's dominance in the general browser space," he said.

Splinter Cell

Since the cell phone space is a new market, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is not the top dog there yet, although it is trying to conquer the space with its Pocket IE browser. Other contenders are Fusion, Openwave Systems, NexGen Software and others.

Rob Shaddock, vice president and general manager for Motorola's PCS unit, told LinuxInsider that all mobile phone makers are looking into more ways to incorporate browser technology.

"In order to stay ahead, you have to do multigenerational design while considering future trends," he said. "And then you derive a range of products from that."

He noted that doing browser development, as well as making good partnerships in the industry, are important for attracting a span of customers.

Whether Nokia's help can push Minimo closer to the top of the heap remains to be seen. Smith noted that it will depend on how well it is received by that golden group, the early adopters. "There will always be early adopters that are looking for something a little bit better and a little bit different," he said. "We'll see what they think."


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