Mozilla Names Mobile Exec Gary Kovacs as New CEO

Mozilla Corporation, which makes the Firefox browser, has named its next CEO: Gary Kovacs. This was a planned transition — current CEO John Lilly is leaving to become a VC at Greylock Partners — but perhaps not an expected choice, given Kovacs comes from outside the Mozilla fold.

Kovacs was most recently at SAP (s SAP) through its acquisition of Sybase; and previously worked on mobile for Adobe (s ADBE), which he joined through its acquisition of Macromedia. He also founded a mobile software and services company called Zi Corporation and spent 10 years at IBM (s IBM).

Mountain View, Calif.-based Mozilla Corp. is owned by Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit, and it has a bit of a hippie culture. In announcing the change, Mozilla Foundation chair Mitchell Baker (herself a former corporation CEO, before Lilly) wrote, “[W]e often speak of “poetry and pragmatics” as fundamental to the nature of Mozilla, and Gary understands both these are critical for Mozilla to thrive.”

Lilly, for his part, wrote of Kovacs, “[H]e’s got deep background in the battlefields that will define the future of the Open Web: mobile and rich media, and he’s been involved in building great organizations several times over.”

Mozilla has recently started moving away from its close relationship with Google (s GOOG), but only by baby steps. The company will offer Bing (s MSFT) as a search toolbar option in Firefox 4, though Google will remain the default. Google provides Mozilla with millions of dollars in affiliate revenue for that privilege, even though its Google Chrome browser is a direct competitor.

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