Foxconn backs Firefox OS play

Can the open-source, Linux-based Firefox mobile operating system become a mobile-space player? The question is far from answered but Mozilla has a new supporter: major electronics contract manufacturer Foxconn.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

While Android and Apple iOS battle it out for mobile platform operating system supremacy, other minor mobile operating systems, such as Mozilla's Linux-based, open-source operating system Firefox OS, are still trying to get a seat at the mobile operating system table. On June 3rd,  Firefox OS gained an important backer: electronics contract manufacturing giant Foxconn.

Want a Firefox OS-based tablet? Foxconn is making one.

The rumor that Foxconn was preparing to back Firefox OS proved to be correct. Firefox OS's parent organization, the Mozilla Foundation, announced at the at the Computex 2013 trade show in Taipei, Taiwan that "Foxconn is extending past its origins in original design manufacturing to a combination of integrated software and hardware offerings, which extends its domain to the open operating platform and positively carries out its integration plan of hardware, software, content, and services."

In a statement, Young Liu, general manager of Foxconn's innovation Digital System Business Group said: “Because of our shared vision, we are excited to work with Mozilla. Firefox OS from Mozilla is based on HTML5 and open Web technologies. The whole idea perfectly matches to the strategies promoted by Foxconn. We believe that the integration of software and hardware development will offer greater benefits to our customers and consumers."

Specifically, Foxconn and Mozilla showed a tablet running a Firefox OS beta. This appears to be the first Firefox OS-powerd tablet. Interestingly, Foxconn is perhaps best known as the manufacturer of the first Apple iPads. 

The companies also promised, according to The Next Web, that the two companies were working on a total of  five devices. While smartphones and tablets are certainly on the agenda, the companies will also be working to extend the operating system to TVs or electronic signs. Foxconn, however, will not be selling any of these devices to end-users. As it has in the past, Foxconn will be the builder behind OEMs who will then deliver the products into customers' hands.

Other  companies, such as  ZTE and Huawei, are already producing engineering samples and developer models of Firefox OS-powered smartphones.

The real question for these outsider mobile operating systems will be whether carriers will back them. For these smaller players, such as Canonical's Ubuntu, carrier support is the wild-card that will determine if they can really play in the marketplace or if they'll remain hobbyist devices. All we can say at this point is that Firefox OS is finding success in garnering the OEM chips it will need to ante into the game.

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