Wondering what you can do with one of VIA’s inexpensive APC computer-on-a-board systems? While you could already run Android 4.0 on the little ARM-based system, now the company is offering a preview release of Firefox OS for the $79 APC Rock and $99 APC Paper.
At least, VIA says it’s releasing a preview of Firefox OS. I suspect this is actually Boot 2 Gecko, the open source version of Firefox OS. Last time I ran a story about someone using B2G on a device, Mozilla reached out to clarify that only officially approved devices get to use the Firefox OS name.
Update: Yup, the APC blog has been updated with a post referring to the software as Boot 2 Gecko rather than Firefox OS.
Either way, you can now install a light-weight operating system designed to run web apps on VIA”s little computers.
Both the APC Rock and APC Paper are tiny computer boards with VIA WonderMedia WM8950 ARM Cortex-A9 processors, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of built-in storage, HDMI, Ethernet, and USB ports, microSD card slots, and ARM Mali 400 graphics.
The main differences between the Rock and Paper are that the $79 model has a VGA port (in addition to HDMI) which the $99 model lacks — but the $99 APC Paper version includes an aluminum and recycled cardboard case designed to look like a book.
The APC Rock ships as a single-board computer with no case. Both are designed as developer-friendly devices with exposed GPIO pins and other other features.
Firefox OS seems like a good fit for this sort of device. The VIA APC systems are relatively low-power devices, but Mozilla’s operating system is designed to run on devices with pretty basic specs, such as the $80 ZTE Open smartphone.
The source code for Firefox OS for the APC devices is available at Github, as is a list of known issues (including lack of support for hardware video decoding, online video playback, mouse scrolling, and more).