Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs Talks Firefox 4, Competition With Google's Chrome and More! (Video)

Published on February 24, 2011
by Kara Swisher

Yesterday, BoomTown paid a long overdue visit on the Mountain View, Calif., HQ of Mozilla, the unusual public-private company that makes the Firefox browser, to chat with its (relatively) new CEO Gary Kovacs (pictured here).

There is a lot to talk about with the new exec, especially the near-to-official launch of Firefox 4, the increasing coopetition with Google and its Chrome efforts and where Mozilla goes next (mobile).

Kovacs, in fact, has a deep mobile background, having arrived in the late fall of 2010 to take over from John Lilly, who moved on to a stint as a venture capitalist.

Before Mozilla, Kovacs worked on a range of products at Sybase–until after its purchase by SAP–and also on mobile and devices at Adobe. Before that, he played a key role at Zi Corporation, a company specializing in embedded software and services for mobile and consumer devices.

He’ll need all that expertise if Firefox is to do as well on mobile devices as it has in gaining market share on the desktop, an effort that has been challenged by a continual and intense effort at upgrade and improvement by No. 3 Google especially.

According to a recent poll, for example, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer holds the dominant 56 percent share, with Mozilla’s Firefox at almost 23 percent and Google at just above 10 percent. Apple’s Safari and Opera follow.

Of course, Firefox has been playing nicer with Chrome cousin Android, which is beginning to dominate the smartphone market and is moving aggressively into the tablet arena. In fact, Mozilla just released a new beta in the marketplace for Google’s mobile operating system.

Still, some have fretted as Mozilla delayed its official release of Firefox 4 several times since last fall.

Nonetheless, by dislodging IE from its dominant market position, Firefox has proved not only that open-source projects can provide better software, but that it’s possible for a particularly well done one to become an everyday consumer application.

Despite its success, Mozilla still has to keep up its innovation and technical prowess. But given its unusual status as both a profit and nonprofit, it is hindered in that it is not likely to go public and shower its Silicon Valley employees with giant gobs of overhyped stock.

In the video below, Kovacs talks about Mozilla’s relationship with Google (not easy!), feature improvements in Firefox 4 (a new Chromish user interface!), how to hold onto talent in Silicon Valley (also not easy!) and what it’s like to deal with Apple (definitely not easy!).


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