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Firefox OS ported to MIPS on Ingenic tablet

Mar 25, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,581 views

Imagination is hosting a raffle for a 9.7-inch, MIPS-based Ingenic tablet that runs a MIPS port of Firefox OS, which will also support its Creator CI20 SBC.

An “experimental” version of Firefox OS has been ported to the MIPS architecture in the form of an unnamed Ingenic reference tablet announced by Imagination Technologies. Imagination designs the IP for the MIPS32 cores and PowerVR SGX540 GPU incorporated in the tablet’s Ingenic XBurst SoC. There are five days left to sign up for an Imagination raffle of 15 of the tablets, which are loaded with Firefox OS, but also support Android 4.4 (see link farther below).

Ingenic Reference Tablet running Firefox OS
(click image to enlarge)

The reference design is aimed at sub-$100 entry-level tablets destined for the same under-served international markets targeted by Firefox OS phones. The tablet’s 1.2GHz, dual-core, JZ4780 XBurst SoC also runs on Imagination’s open source, Linux- and Android-ready Creator CI20 single board computer. “Developers can therefore easily port Firefox OS to the development board by downloading the full source code soon to be available on GitHub,” writes Alexandru Voica on the Imagination blog.

Imagination’s Creator CI20 SBC
(click image to enlarge)

The Ingenic reference table features a 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768 touchscreen, as well as micro-USB and mini-HDMI ports. WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 are available along with front and rear cameras that support still photos, WebRTC-based video conferencing, and HD video recording, says Imagination.

Other features are said to include a headphone socket, a microphone, volume controls, stereo speakers, and buttons for sleep/wake and back. The tablet provides access to the Firefox Marketplace so developers can “easily create, test and publish cross-platform HTML5 apps,” writes Voica.

Closeup view of Ingenic tablet running Firefox OS
(click image to enlarge)

This is the third reference tablet for Firefox OS, but the first MIPS-based mobile device running the open source, HTML5-focused mobile OS. We have yet to see any commercial tablets running Firefox OS, however.

In early 2014, Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.) and Via Technologies each announced ARM-based tablet reference designs. The Foxconn InFocus features a quad-core, Cortex-A7 Allwinner A31 SoC clocked to 1GHz and a PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU. The tablet provides 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800, IPS touchscreen.

Via Vixen (left) and Foxconn InFocus
(click images to enlarge)

The Via Vixen uses Via’s own 1.2GHz Cortex-A9 based WonderMedia WM8880 SoC equipped with a dual-core ARM Mali-400 GPU. The Vixen also offers 1GB of RAM, 8GB of flash storage, and a microSD slot. The 7-inch capacitive touchscreen delivers 1024 × 600-pixel resolution.

Like Android, Mozilla’s Linux-based Firefox OS was originally optimized only for ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon system-on-chips. It has similarly expanded to other ARM platforms, although most devices, which are primarily built by ZTE and Alcatel OneTouch, still run on Cortex-A8 Snapdragons. Most recently, Alcatel OneTouch and Orange announced a $40 Orange Klif Firefox OS phone, which Orange is selling in Africa. The phone runs on a dual-core, Cortex-A7 MediaTek MT657 SoC. Firefox OS is also appearing in a version optimized for the Raspberry Pi’s ARM SoC.

Last year, Firefox OS was ported to x86 on the dual-core Atom Z2560 based Geeksphone Revolution phone. The Ingenic tablet now brings Mozilla’s OS to MIPS.

For years, entry-level Linux- and Android-based tablets running MIPS XBurst SoCs have sold in China and other countries, and the MIPS-based Velocity Cruz tablets found some success in the U.S. MIPS even appeared in a few low-end Android smartphones such as the Sanno. Yet, cheaper ARM SoCs have come to dominate in the low-end tablet segment, and MIPS phones never went very far.

Ars Technica offered a brief hands-on report of the tablet and its experimental Firefox OS build. Reviewer Sebastian Anthony found plenty of rough edges on both hardware and software, but suggested the tablet was capable enough to give app developers a feel for Firefox OS on MIPS.

It was unclear to what extent the tablet will be made available beyond the 15 giveaway units. Ars Technica’s Anthony noted that the reference tablet would never go on sale, but presumably, other tablets will be offered in some form to interested developers.

The video below, made by Imagination Technologies, shows Firefox OS running on an Ingenic JZ4780 SoC (MIPS CPU + PowerVR GPU) on Ingenic’s reference tablet.

Ingenic reference tablet running Firefox OS

Further information

More information on the Ingenic tablet with Firefox OS, plus signup for the raffle, which runs until March 29, may be found in the Imagination blog announcement.

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0 responses to “Firefox OS ported to MIPS on Ingenic tablet”

  1. CFWhitman says:

    I can’t help but question the wisdom of using PowerVR GPUs for units on which you hope to promote open source software. PowerVR does not seem to ever want there to be open source drivers for their GPUs, and closed source drivers always seem to end up being a stumbling block to one degree or another.

  2. jezra says:

    hopefully Imagination Technology will gain enough revenue from selling this hardware running an Open Source OS that they will decide to Open Source the PowerVR graphics chip and give something back to the community.

    • Alexandru Voica says:


      We are not selling these tablets, we are giving them away in a raffle to people who are interested in experiencing Firefox OS and developing HTML5 apps on a MIPS-based device.

      Regarding the state of the PowerVR driver, we are working on a strategy internally.


      • jezra says:

        Based on the ‘raffle’ giving multiple entries to people who tweet about the device or follow the Imagination Tech Public Relations team on twitter, I would argue that the point of the raffle isn’t to get these into the hands of developers, but to get people to help promote this device on twitter; but that is just my opinion, what do I know about marketing?

        Rereading the article, I see that this is a reference for “sub-$100 entry-level tablets”, but I didn’t see that the device would or would not be for sale. I apologize for making the assumption that this device would be for sale.

        Can you tell us anything about the internal strategy regarding Open Sourcing the PowerVR graphics driver?

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