The firefox OS release was the hottest announcement at MWC. The basics of the firefox OS announcement are well publicized by now.
- Following the lead of Telefonica and geeksphone, Mozilla revealed big-name supporters in the Operator community including Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telenor.
- Device vendors TCL Communication Technology (Alcatel One Touch) , ZTE, Huawei have joined and devices will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon™ chipset.
- The first wave of Firefox OS devices will be available to consumers in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela. Additional markets will be announced soon.
- Mozilla wants to launch a fully open mobile ecosystem built on HTML5. The first Firefox OS powered devices are expected to launch commercially in Brazil in 2013 through Telefonica’s commercial brand Vivo.
- Firefox OS will be built on Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko project which enables HTML5 applications to access the underlying device capabilities of a phone - e.g the camera API.
- While there will be an official Firefox Marketplace, others could deploy their own marketplaces. Similarly, multiple payment methods are supported.
- The devices themselves support many smartphone like features including camera, messaging etc alongwith built in cost controls, social media integration and a deep contextual search that allows you to search the web and app ecosystem at the same time. For example searching for your favourite artist allows you to get buy concert tickets
- Mozilla aims to bring the first phones powered by its Firefox OS to Europe by the summer
- Even AT&T Mobility CEO says he’s open to Firefox OS
You can see a video here (from Richard Taylor, editor of Click Tout video )
Implications for the industry
The mobile world congress 2013 was focused on the next billion and in that sense, the Mozilla firefox OS device is in the same ballpark (being targeted to emerging markets)
The choice of HTML5 and the open Mozilla stack is interesting
I have blogged before that there are many reasons why HTML5 fits in well with Mobile Operator’s strategies.
On first glance, it sounds counter intuitive – especially when Mark Zuckerberg says betting on HTML5 was facebook’s biggest mistake and Google bets heavily on Android. (UPDATE – PS read this great article in the register as counterpoint for Zuckerberg view HTML5 is’nt facebook’s biggest mistake)
However, assuming some problems are overcome, there are many reasons for synergies between HTML5 and Operators – for instance Operator could leverage their brand across many devices, the Operator can conduct trials for games through features like zero rating of data for initial uptake etc.
So, if we look at the Firefox OS announcement in that context, it makes more strategic sense. Operator led initiatives have had little success historically – but the Firefox OS initiative is not (primarily) a collaboration between Operators but rather it is initially a collaboration between an Operator(Telefonica) and a major Internet player (firefox) which brings a vibrant developer community to the platform. With the current announcement (18 Operators + 4 device vendors) – we have the possibility for a true ‘third ecosystem’ powered by developer support(from Mozilla)
An interesting feature- not much covered – is ‘carrier customization’ especially around granular billing. This strategy has already tried out by the likes of Opera web pass with limited success – but embedding such features deep inside a device could be very interesting for an Operator in emerging markets.
Strategically, the biggest impact of this announcement would be on devices in emerging markets(for example from Nokia) – but I expect over time – the ecosystem could well migrate to advanced markets.
In any case, the effort to create a truly open device is commendable and deserves recognition and support – especially when the more traditional proponents of Open systems seem to have abandoned the efforts – leading to an irony that the Operators have picked up the Open mantle ..
May it succeed
1) If you are in Berlin next week, I am speaking at Media Web Symposium at Fraunhofer FOKUS
Image source: Mozila
PS – I was pleased to get a developer version of this phone – but I have not tested it yet – which I look forward to doing so!