Mozilla's Firefox OS to rival iOS, Android

The open source pioneer will take on Apple's iOS and Google's Android with a Firefox OS for mobile devices, supporting open web standards, especially HTML5. The first devices will appear mid-year, but not in the US, at least initially.
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor

Mozilla may be way late to the mobile OS party, but its focus on open web standards and devices, independence from any one single vendor, and focus on emerging markets is a smart way to debut.

On February 24, just prior to the launch of the Mobile World Congress, the Mozilla Foundation announced the commercial launch of its preview Firefox operating system for mobile devices and Firefox Marketplace with 17 mobile operators and four OEMs.

The first wave of Firefox OS mobile devices — to be "unleashed" by Alcatel, LG, and ZTE in emerging markets beginning mid-year (Huawei to follow later in the year) — will be based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processors. Initially, they will be aimed at consumers in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain, and Venezuela, with other markets to follow.

Mozilla is wise to debut in emerging markets with a focus on open web standards, such as HTML 5, and distinguishing its technology and approach from those of proprietary giants Apple and Google.

"Firefox OS smartphones are the first built entirely to open web standards, enabling every feature to be developed as an HTML5 application," Mozilla announced yesterday. "Web apps access every underlying capability of the device, bypassing the typical hindrances of HTML5 on mobile to deliver substantial performance. The platform's flexibility allows carriers to easily tailor the interface and develop localized services that match the unique needs of their customer base."

"Most mobile apps are built with web technologies at the core, and then wrapped in a proprietary technology to distribute the app on a specific platform," the foundation added. "Mozilla is unlocking the web as a mobile development platform with Firefox Marketplace and unwrapping mobile apps to enable more opportunity and control for developers and consumers

Mozilla also claims that its top notch search capabilities — including contextual search — and integration with Facebook and Twitter out of the box make it very competitive with Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

"Firefox OS includes all the things people need from a smartphone out of the box — calls, messaging, email, camera, and more — as well as the things you wish a smartphone offered, like built-in cost controls, social features with Facebook and Twitter, location-based services, much-loved features like the Firefox web browser, new ability to discover one-time use and downloadable apps, Firefox Marketplace, and much more."

"Every device is better if it's social, and we're excited that Firefox OS users will have easy access to the mobile web-based version of Facebook that will take advantage of our current and future features," said Vaughan Smith, VP of mobile partnerships at Facebook.

"With Firefox OS, you can simply enter any search term and instantly create a one-time use or downloadable app. Creating and consuming these apps on demand puts users in complete control of their app and smartphone experience, and will make it possible for people to get the exact content they want, when they want it."

Mozilla also has pretty good positioning, particularly since it's aimed outside of the Apple- and Google-obsessed markets, and at audiences more sensitive to the open source and open web standards messaging. It will be targeting consumers in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain, and Venezuela initially.

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