Mozilla Putting Firefox, Thunderbird Front and Center

With a new and improved Microsoft Internet Explorer looming, the Mozilla Foundation said late last week that it is shifting its focus completely to its popular Web browser and e-mail applications.

In a letter posted on Thursday on its Web site, Mozilla announced its intent to pull the development plug on the integrated Mozilla Application Suite, a.k.a. Seamonkey, and focus entirely on a new generation of applications — namely its Firefox and Thunderbird software. Mozilla reiterated Firefox and Thunderbird have been the organization’s priorities since 2003.

“The 1.7.x line will be the last set of Seamonkey products released and maintained by the Mozilla Foundation,” the company stated. “The Mozilla Foundation will provide infrastructure for those interested in working on the 1.7.x releases, which we expect will include a number of vendors who provide these products to their customers.”

Preparing for the IE Onslaught

Analysts said Mozilla is preparing for retaliation from Microsoft in the form of a new version of its Internet Explorer Web browser, which has been losing share to Firefox on a monthly basis recently. Last month Microsoft said version 7 would be released with the next update of Windows XP.

Microsoft has reason to retaliate. Firefox boasts nearly 27 million downloads since its November final release. Thunderbird has seen nearly 4 million downloads, although that pace has slowed a bit during the past month.

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox told LinuxInsider that the browser wars are growing more intense. IE’s older releases did not offer some of the competitive browsing features that has helped make Firefox a success. But now Microsoft is ramping up again.

“If I were Mozilla I would be much more concerned about Firefox versus IE 7 and begin putting my limited resources there instead of in some unreleased product like Seamonkey, for which I can only guess what demand might be,” Wilcox said.

Upsetting Seamonkey Users

After all, said Wilcox, Mozilla is powered mostly by volunteers while Microsoft has high-paid staff set on taking back what Mozilla stole. Smart developers typically put their resources where they see the greatest potential return on investment, and Firefox is a hot product these days, he said.

Mozilla said if it ships Seamonkey 1.8, then it will support the software. But the company is concerned about having the resources to manage supporting additional releases of Seamonkey in addition to Firefox and Thunderbird.

Will this upset Seamonkey users? Perhaps, said Wilcox. But he doesn’t see it as a major problem for Mozilla either way: “Even commercial software vendors abandon products.”

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