Italy becomes Firefox OS' next target as Telecom Italia begins selling One Touch Fire

Can the country that took Windows Phone to its heart do the same for the Mozilla operating system?
Written by Raffaele Mastrolonardo, Contributor

Italy is to become the next country to get its hands on Firefox OS smartphones.

Priced at €79.90, the Alcatel OneTouch Fire — the same model which has already arrived in Poland, Hungary, Serbia, and Germany, is now available online in Italy and will hit the shelves on 6 December, right in time for the Christmas smartphone shopping spree.

The phone brought to Italy by Telecom Italia, will sport a 3.5 inch display, along with a 1GHz processor and a 3.2-megapixel camera. But its main feature — and the one that will probably draw the curiosity of most of its early buyers — is its HTML5-based OS developed by the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation.

The open source mobile OS' aim is to show that apps built from web technologies can compete against native apps built for individual platforms — an ambitious vision that has caught Telecom Italia's eye. "We are very proud that TIM [Telecom Italia's mobile arm] is the first Italian mobile carrier to adopt Firefox OS," Marco Patuano, Telecom Italia's CEO, said in a statement. "HTML5-based solutions' spread will be a huge innovation engine for telcos and an opportunity for the development of a new ecosystem."

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Firefox OS enters a saturated Italian smartphone market, where Android dominates and Windows Phone is on the rise. As the latest Kantar World Panel's numbers recently confirmed, the Google-backed OS accounted for 68.8 percent of all smartphones sold in Italy in the three months ending 30 October (up 11.5 percent year on year), while iOS' share of smartphone sales dropped to 10.1 percent, an 8.1 percent year on year fall.

Meanwhile, Windows Phone reached 16.1 percent (a 4.4 percent rise) — a record in Europe's major markets.  Among the reasons behind the OS' success in the country are Italians' long-lasting love for the Nokia brand, and a growing share of consumers looking for budget smartphones.

This last factor could play out in Firefox OS' favour, along with mobile carriers' desire to loosen their dependence on Android models. "The key is that mobile operators have a strong desire to emancipate themselves from the biggest mobile platforms, particularly if these are controlled by over-the-top players like Google," Cristoforo Morandini, director of consultancy Between, told ZDNet, "so they're experimenting with Firefox OS to see if something good will come out of it for them."

So, after having shown their appreciation of upstart Windows Phone, will Italians display the same affection for another underdog mobile OS? It's difficult to say. "It's an interesting experiment that shows how things might evolve in future in the mobile world, but right now it's a long shot," Morandini said.

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