Firefox Fennec Hits Windows Mobile

The browser should have many of the features of the PC version, including the Awesome Bar, strong JavaScript support, and the ability to add extensions.
Mozilla has released an alpha version of its mobile Firefox for Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform.

Code-named Fennec, the browser has already been released as a beta for the Nokia 810 Internet Tablet, but the Windows Mobile version will likely have a larger audience. The mobile browser uses the Gecko HTML rendering engine, has a touch interface for zooming and scanning, and has the Awesome Bar that debuted in Firefox 3. Fennec uses the TraceMonkey engine for JavaScript support, and the company said this helps the browser startup faster, as well as boost the ability to pan and zoom.

Fennec users will be able to download add-ons to improve the functionality of the browser, just as they can with Firefox for the desktop. Developers will be able to create programs like an ad blocker for the mobile browser, and the company said it should be relatively easy to port existing extensions.

The Fennec browser is expected to be launched by the end of the year for Windows Mobile and Symbian smartphones. Mozilla said it would not initially be available for Android, BlackBerry, or the iPhone because of licensing or technical issues.

Mozilla will be entering a crowded marketplace when Fennec is launched. Along with on-deck browsers like Apple's mobile Safari, Fennec will have to contend with others trying to capitalize on the growing use of the mobile Web.

Opera dominates the third-party mobile browsing market, as more than 20 million customers use the Opera Mini browser. The company also offers Opera Mobile for higher-end devices, and it features optimized content, as well as touch browsing and zooming. Startup Skyfire also is receiving positive reviews, as the mobile browser uses server-side compression to let users access and interact with sites that have Flash, advanced Ajax, Java, and QuickTime.

With strong browsers like Fennec, smartphones could eventually replace your laptop as a mobile computing device. InformationWeek analyzed how handhelds are becoming over-the-air portals for enterprise apps, and the report can be downloaded here (registration required).

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