Android Users Get Firefox in Early Pre-Alpha Form

Mozilla, the makers of the world’s most popular third-party personal computer internet browser, is looking to take on Opera, maker of the world’s most popular mobile internet device browser, in the mobile arena.  Mozilla has been working on a mobile version of Firefox called Fennec. 

Strangely, Mozilla initially did not choose to target any of the major smartphone operating systems — RIM’s BlackBerry OS, Apple’s iPhone OS X, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, Google’s Android OS, or Palm’s webOS.  Instead it initially deployed Fennec to the Nokia N810, a lesser known smartphone.

Now it has finally made good on its promise to deliver the browser to a major mobile platform. Mozilla developer Vladimir Vukicevic has announced the availability of Fennec for Android 2.0 and Android 2.1 users.  The browser is currently available for direct download here.  It is not in Google’s Android Marketplace, yet.

The current build features some nice perks — silky smooth OpenGL ES 2.0 animation and Mozilla’s typical add-on greatness.  New to the mobile browser is Mozilla Weave, a service that allows you to sync your browser history, tabs, bookmarks, and passwords.

There are some noted downsides.  Memory management is not optimized, so its likely to hog memory on your Android handset.  Additionally, Mozilla reports that there’s some bugs or hiccups restarting the browser or installing add-ons.

Mozilla will have to race to catch up to the competition.  Opera Mini is available on Android, the iPhone, Windows Mobile, RIM’s BlackBerry OS.  Opera recently reported that it has 50 million mobile users of its browser on its various platforms.  It’s quickly moving to monetize that marketshare, with advertising efforts.