Mozilla Launches Firefox OS to Mobile

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Posted 4 years ago

Mozilla, the non-profit organization behind the popular Firefox web browser, has launched its Firefox operating system for mobile with hopes of challenging the ruling hierarchy of Android and iOS.

A mobile Firefox OS has been rumored for quite some time, so Mozilla unveiling the software on the eve of the first day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain does not come as any great surprise. That is not to say the release is any less intriguing as a result.

Mozilla VP of products Jay Sullivan announced during the first commercial showing of the OS that the first phones running Firefox will most likely be sold in emerging markets and the developing world, i.e. the cheap end of the market. It was also said that the foundation is working with mobile manufacturers including LG, China’s TCL and ZTE to produce handsets, with Huawei and other firms “to follow.”

The smartphones running the OS will look very much like Android and iOS devices, featuring an array of apps that are to be made available from the Firefox Marketplace – no sense in changing what is already a successful formula.

“With the support of our vibrant community and dedicated partners, our goal is to level the playing field and usher in an explosion of content and services that will meet the diverse needs of the next two billion people online,” said Gary Kovacs, Chief Executive at Mozilla.

The Firefox OS is based on HTML5, which gives it a unique selling point and an advantage over both Android and iOS in that it breaks away from the “ecosystem.” Instead of being a gated operating system like iOS and – to a degree – Android, Firefox is embracing the open web, which essentially means that the devices carrying the OS will be mobile web browsers, and using apps will be much the same as opening and closing temporary webpages.

Another big bonus in Mozilla’s quest to “level the playing field” is the announcement that 18 carriers, including Sprint, Telefonica, Deutsche Telecom, KDDI and China Unicom are fully committed to the big push and a number of big-name partners have already signed on to develop applications in the marketplace, including Disney Games, EA Games, and Facebook.

With an Android and Apple commanding 85% of the market, I struggle to see Firefox fully succeeding where more established operating systems such as BlackBerry and Windows Phone have failed, in stealing significant market share from the big two. This may be why Mozilla is looking towards the developing world, where smartphones are still vastly outnumbered by cell phones and feature phones.

The Mozilla Foundation says that the Firefox OS will debut in mid-2013 on handsets in South America and Eastern Europe. When, or if, handsets are made available in the U.S. remains to be seen.

The open ecosystem concept is certainly exciting, and if successful, Firefox is likely to be just the first of many web-based mobile operating systems that appear on the market.

– Anthony Carter

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