Mozilla’s Firefox enters the smartphone fray

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jan 23, 2013

Mobile Phone
Mozilla is all set to enter the smartphone wars with the unveiling of its two phones it will ship to developers who want to make apps for its forthcoming open-source mobile platform, according to Forbes.com
The report stated that the free software community will start shipping the phones in early February with no option to pre-order, and the platform itself, built on open web standards, won’t be available to consumers till later this year and that Spanish handset-maker Geeksphone, will help build the handsets.

According to the report, the move is part of its plans to enter the fray this year as Mozilla expects it to be one of the most explosive years in the new mobile operating system. “Not only must they fight the Goliaths of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, but at least three other open sourced-mobile ecosystems set to fight for attention from developers, handset makers and carriers this year: Samsung’s Tizen, Jolla’s Sailfish and Canonical’s Ubuntu, though the latter won’t be available till 2014,” the website wrote.

Mozilla will initially be introducing Firefox OS in Brazil via a partnership with Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, along with other emerging markets. This is so because Mozilla is targeting emerging markets partly because it has a better chance of its alternative operating system catching on in places where people are trying smartphones for the first time. Mozilla essentially wants to put the word “open” back in “open source,” at a time when Android bills itself as open source but is widely thought to be exploiting the term given, the control that Google can still exert over how this sprawling platform is licensed, wrote Forbes.com

It is also expected that Mozilla’s phones will be relatively cheap though it is still unclear on the pricing. But the website said that Firefox OS will run HTML5 apps, which are essentially like websites running within a browser, and on the small screen of a smartphone. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea especially since so-called native apps built for iOS or Android tend to run more smoothly, and with greater features than HTML5 apps. But using HTML5 also lowers the price point for an entry-level smartphones in emerging markets, reported the website.

For starters, the website said that the handsets Mozilla is shipping to developers this year are not high spec. The lower-scale Keon model comes with a 1.2-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU, and 4GB of ROM. The more powerful Peak model has a faster CPU and 8 megapixel camera. These are phones that might appeal to the rapidly growing number of people in emerging markets who are just making the transition from feature phones to smartphones, but don’t wish to pay too much for the privilege.

It also pointed out that Mozilla also postulates that its platform, unlike iOS or Android, gives developers more freedom. “You’re not locked into a vendor-controlled ecosystem,” it quoted Mozilla Firefox as saying. “You can distribute your app through the Firefox Marketplace, your own website, or any other store based on Mozilla’s open app store technology.”

However, it still looks like Google and Apple will not be challenged so easily at least for the next two years, according to the website. “When there’s more OS’s, or more than two, then there’s going to be a bigger push towards cross platform [app development],” Jefferson Wang, a consultant on mobile and wireless technology with IBB Consulting was quoted by the site. But it takes time for an ecosystem to mature.