The Firefox OS is moving very fast. We now have the Simulator version 3.0 preview with lots of extra features. With this rate of progress and tmany hardware manufactures on board, this might be the web app-based phone to back.
The latest version of Firefox OS Simulator is only a preview and Mozilla warns that it might be rough around the edges but it might very well be worth the effort of getting to know.
Currently the situation is that if you are considering writing a new app you have the options of competing in the over-crowded iOS and Android markets or to take a chance on the less successful but hence more underpopulated markets. Of these Windows Phone 8 is has been out for long enough for most to realize that its not going to be a big market unless something amazing happens. Despite RIM's effort to revive interest Blackberry also seems to be a poor prospect.
Of the yet to be fully launched platforms Ubuntu Touch looks technically promising but so far hasn't revealed any real plans for getting the OS on devices. Only Firefox OS is technically attractive and seems to have enough hardware backing to make it look realistic. Notice it still has only a small chance of success but at a rough guess it seems more likely that Firefox OS will be the number three phone OS than it turns out to be Windows Phone 8.
This is not to say that there isn't still much to do. The rate of progress may be quite fast but Mozilla for some reason was slow to get started. There are a lot of HTML APIs that need to be implemented to make a workable system and then there is the future battle to get them recognized as standards. The big disaster for Mozilla and for Firefox OS developers would be if W3C approved a different standard for a significant Mozilla API or a significant number of the Mozilla APIs. This would mean either being non-standard in the future or having to re-engineer everything to the new standards. There is also the issue of compatibility between Firefox OS apps and general web apps. As long as Firefox OS APIs become W3C standards then Firefox OS apps are web apps.
Looking at what's new in V3, what is interesting is that the improvements to the Simulator are mostly simulator issues rather than API implementations - this is about making development easier not filling in missing details:
- Push to Device - Download an app from the simulator to a real USB connected device.
- Rotation simulation - now you can test your app in two orientations.
- Basic geolocation API simulation
- Manifest validation
- Stability fixes for installation and updates to apps
- Newer versions of the Firefox rendering engine and Gaia (the UI for Firefox OS)
As they say, keep watching this space - the simulator gives us a good chance to get ahead of the game by having apps ready before hardware becomes widely available later this year.