Mozilla confirms 'showstopper' bug in mobile browser preview

Memory problem in Fennec for Windows Mobile makes it 'basically useless,' says developer

Mozilla has acknowledged that a "showstopper" bug makes the first preview of its browser for Windows Mobile-powered cell phones "bascially useless" to many users.

The preview, which Mozilla delivered a week ago, was the first build of the company's mobile browser, dubbed "Fennec," to run on Microsoft's mobile operating system. Previously, Mozilla had issued a version that ran only on Nokia's Tablet Internet device, or on Windows or Mac OS X computers.

But after Mozilla released Fennec for Windows Mobile, some testers, including reviewers at AppScout.com , reported that the browser would not load pages. Instead, the browser only displayed a checkerboard-like screen.

On Saturday, Mozilla developer Mark Finkle confirmed the bug and said the problem appeared to be memory related. "Windows Mobile has some exciting restrictions around memory use," Finkle said. "[But] there are ways to get around the restrictions and that's what we are working on."

Finkle called the problem a "showstopper," but reminded users that Fennec for Windows Mobile was designated "pre-alpha," and that the purpose of testing was to put the browser through the ringer.

"We hoped [the pre-alpha] would help us find bugs that didn't show up on our test devices," Finkle said in a post to his blog. "We knew there would be problems lurking around, so we wanted to get a preview version into the hands of more testers. The good news is we found a showstopper! The bad news is the browser is basically useless for many people."

According to the flaw's Bugzilla listing, developers have been able to reproduce the bug, but no fix has been crafted.

Mozilla is late to the mobile browser party. Opera Software ASA's flagship browser currently leads the market, while Safari handles Internet duties on Apple's iPhone. Windows Mobile, meanwhile, includes Microsoft's Internet Explorer Mobile, which is based on that company's desktop browser's rendering engine.

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Gregg Keizer

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