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Firefox OS advances beyond phones to TVs and more

Jan 6, 2014  |  Eric Brown

Firefox OS widened its horizons today. Panasonic says it’s using it in a smart TV, and Via Technologies pledged to support it on new embedded form factors.

On the same day that LG showed off a resurrected WebOS on a new smart TV, Panasonic announced a collaboration with Mozilla to bake Firefox OS into a smart TV of its own.

Most smart TVs run on a Linux-based operating system, but none appear to be as sophisticated as WebOS or Firefox OS — both of which were born in the more demanding mobile device world. With WebOS, the key enhancement compared to smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, and others is the addition of better multitasking, a key advantage of the Palm and HP Pre phones. With Firefox OS, it’s the HTML5 support that points to some interesting new directions.

According to Panasonic, Firefox OS will provide better interoperability with HTML5-enabled devices such as Firefox OS phones, and although they don’t mention it, other HTML5-based devices such as future Tizen phones. The well-honed support for HTML5 and other web technologies will also provide better integration with cloud services, including “personalized and optimized access to Web and broadcasting content and services through the Internet,” says Panasonic. Specific features include multiple profiles for different TV viewers within a household.

In addition, Firefox OS will give the upcoming Panasonic TV better integration with future networked devices. For example, with emerging Firefox OS WebAPIs for hardware control and operation, Panasonic smart TVs will eventually be capable of “monitoring and operating devices inside and outside of the home, such as the emerging smart home appliances,” says Panasonic.

No timetable was provided for the upcoming smart TVs. Panasonic offers a line of Viera TVs, some of which include smart TV functions. These include the recent $6,000 65-inch Class 4K Ultra HD TV, which offers a 4K media player, web browser, and online playback, among other features.

“Through Panasonic’s partnership with Mozilla, we will create further innovation in smart TV technologies and features, which will take consumers to a whole new level of interaction and connectivity inside and outside of the home,” stated Mr. Yuki Kusumi, Director of the TV Business Division of the AVC Networks Company of Panasonic.
 

Via Technologies releases Firefox OS build, partners with Mozilla on support

The other Firefox OS news to emerge today is from Via Technologies. In September, Via announced the availability of a preview release of Firefox OS for its Android-oriented $99 APC Paper mini-PC and similar $79 APC Rock single board computer (SBC). Now, Via says the release is available in final form, with complete, buildable source code available on GitHub.



APC Paper mini-PC and APC Rock SBC
(click images to enlarge)

 

In addition, the company has entered into a formal partnership with Mozilla to provide support and development services for future Firefox OS based “new device form factors” beyond smartphones and tablets.

The most recent v1.02.01 release for Firefox OS fixes a number of bugs, and supports new features like HDMI hot plug, Ethernet cable hot plug, and mouse wheel events. As Via noted in September, free APC devices will be rewarded to developers that fix a known issue.

The APC Paper mini-PC and similar APC Rock SBC normally run Android 4.0 on an 800MHz Via WonderMedia Cortex-A9 system-on-chip, backed up with 512MB RAM and 4GB flash. They also offer HDMI, USB, and Ethernet connections, none of which are found on Firefox OS phones. This makes the devices interesting development platforms for devices beyond smartphones and tablets.

“This partnership with APC presents an exciting opportunity to help redefine user experiences on desktops around the world,” stated Li Gong, Mozilla’s Senior Vice President of mobile devices and President of Asia Operations. “Mozilla will keep working on new features and enhancements of Firefox OS, and also provide knowledge sharing and technical support for Firefox OS and Marketplace.”
 

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