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Mozilla Stocks the Shelves for an App Store Grand Opening

By Richard Adhikari LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Feb 23, 2012 3:49 PM PT

The Mozilla Foundation will begin accepting developer submissions for its own app market at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which will be held in Barcelona next week.

Mozilla Stocks the Shelves for an App Store Grand Opening

The Mozilla Marketplace will let devs distribute and monetize their apps. It will also be the sole repository for cross-platform apps and Firefox extensions. Further, it will include services such as identity and digital receipts, a payments module, and app sync, backup and recovery. The Mozilla Marketplace will let devs enable one-click purchases, payments and subscriptions.

Mozilla is building a cross-platform Web Runtime it calls "Apps/WebRT", on which apps from the Mozilla Marketplace will run. This is a runtime for Web applications that will give them a native-like look and feel.

WebRT will offer platform integration APIs on Android, Windows, Mac and other platforms. It will be based on existing Web rendering engines such as Webkit and Gecko.

"Having an app store for Web apps kind of defeats one of the biggest advantages of Web apps -- you aren't tied to an app store for distribution," Mark Beccue, a senior analyst at ABI Research, told LinuxInsider. Web apps "can be distributed from a website, which means the content owner can then market the app using established Web techniques like search."

Can the Mozilla Marketplace Survive?

"If [Mozilla] funds the app store well ... they might do well," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told LinuxInsider.

But "they're well behind Google and Apple in terms of coverage and audience and funds, and they won't get the number of apps and OEMs behind them that they need, so they probably won't be competitive," Enderle told LinuxInsider.

Mozilla spokesperson Marisa Hagerman pointed LinuxInsider to the foundation's 2012 roadmap when asked about its plans.

Some Info on Mozilla Apps

Apps submitted to the Mozilla Marketplace at MWC will have their names reserved and may be featured in the Mozilla Marketplace when that is launched later this year.

The apps will work across desktops, mobile phones and tablets and will be built using HTML5, cascading style sheets (CSS) and JavaScript through application programming interfaces (APIs) Mozilla will provide.

The apps will be linked to user's identities so users can take them along when they replace their mobile devices.

Every app will include a receipt tied to the user's BrowserID, Mozilla's single sign-on technology.

Mozilla will provide a cloud-based interface to all a user's apps called the App Dashboard. Users will log into the App Marketplace and their App Dashboard using BrowserID.

Initially, 3,000 devs will be given access to the Apps Developer Preview. This is a sandbox environment that will simulate the developer experience of submitting an HTML5 Web app to Mozilla Labs. Mozilla will use feedback emerging from the Preview to fine-tune its Marketplace.

Documentation for appdevs is available here.

Why Mozilla Wants a Marketplace of Its Own

The idea behind the Mozilla Marketplace is to open up the concept of an app market. Most apps today are distributed by tightly controlled app stores and tend to be platform- and OS-specific, and the market is dominated by a few players, Mozilla contends.

Platform- or OS-specific app ecosystems force developers to spend more to build, maintain, distribute and market apps if they want to provide for each native platform, according to the organization.

Further, using platform- or OS-specific platforms means devs lose control over customer relationships, the frequency of updates and technology choices, among other things. Also, their customer base is fragmented.

Mozilla's Lab Apps project is predicated on the foundation's vision that the Web is the platform of the future. It aims at offering apps across all platforms.

The Mozilla Marketplace will serve as an alternate marketplace to those already on the Web and will offer a variety of high-quality HTML5 apps.

However, the Mozilla Marketplace "is likely to come up and die quietly," Enderle remarked. "There just isn't enough momentum behind it to come up and stand out in the pack. It won't cross the threshold from being an interesting idea to becoming a great product."

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