Mozilla is in the early stages of planning a project that would not only compete with Google’s Chrome OS, but would go a bit beyond. Boot to Gecko—named for Firefox’s Gecko rendering engine—would be a bit of Android-based software (primarily the kernel, drivers and other low-level bits, I assume) designed to boot hardware to the web in order to run a web-based operating system.
Mozilla believes that the web can displace proprietary, single-vendor stacks for application development. To make open web technologies a better basis for future applications on mobile and desktop alike, we need to keep pushing the envelope of the web to include — and in places exceed — the capabilities of the competing stacks in question.
Mozilla wants to develop new APIs that would allow web-based applications to access hardware such as USB, Bluetooth, cameras, SMS, NFC and telephony. These would, of course, have a “privilege” system to ensure that potentially malevolent applications wouldn’t be able to access the hardware without your consent.
It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. Google, with Chrome OS, seems to be primarily interested in the development of cheap hardware that boots into a browser. Mozilla, on the other hand, is currently more focused on enhancing web applications to make that sort of device more viable. And some of the APIs would likely be implemented in full-featured mobile operating systems like Android and iOS sooner or later.
Boot to Gecko [wiki.mozilla.org]