| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Feb 24 Mozilla, makers of the
popular Firefox Internet browser, is preparing to challenge
Google and Apple's grip on smartphone
A new Firefox operating system for mobile devices is set for
a July release after winning the backing of 13 wireless service
providers around the globe, including Spain's Telefonica, China
Unicom and America Movil.
Mozilla is betting there's room for a software
developer-friendly mobile platform alongside Apple's and
Google's Android, which together power the majority of mobile
devices on the planet.
The new software is based on open Web standards and is
capable of operating on devices with much lower hardware
requirements than today's existing crop of smarpthones,
according to Mozilla.
Because the Firefox OS is open-source and Web-based,
third-party developers will be free to sell mobile applications
without needing to share revenue with Apple or Google.
"There's a strategic imperative for the industry to have
another OS that really is open and supports choice and
competition," said Mozilla's Senior Vice President of Products,
Mozilla will showcase some of the first hardware devices
based on that software at the Mobile World Congress, taking
place in Barcelona this week. Among the brands that have signed
on to make devices based on Firefox OS are South Korea's LG
, China's ZTE and Huawei.
Unlike Google and Apple's operating systems, which are built
from proprietary technology, Firefox OS uses the HTML5 standard
that Web services are built with. That means anyone familiar
with Web programming can create Firefox OS apps.
Whether a smartphone built on Web standards can deliver the
kind of performance that consumers expect remains to be seen.
Facebook famously stopped using HTML5 to develop its iPhone app
last year, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg saying the
technology couldn't deliver acceptable quality and calling a
decision to use HTML5 for its app one of Facebook's "biggest
Mozilla, a non-profit organization, also faces stiff
competition. Google's Android software, which the company
distributes free to phone vendors from Samsung to
HTC, had roughly 70 percent share of the worldwide
smartphone market in the fourth quarter, according to industry
research firm Gartner. Apple, which created the smartphone
market with the 2007 launch of the now-iconic iPhone, had a
roughly 21 percent share of the market.
"The real barrier here is not necessarily a technical one,
it's scale," said John Jackson, an analyst with research firm
IDC. Mozilla will need to attract large numbers of consumers and
app developers if it hopes to avoid the fate of previous mobile
operating system hopefuls, such as Palm's WebOS, now owned by
But "the world's computing experiences are going mobile and
when they get to the mobile environment, they're happening on a
platform that's controlled by either Apple or Google," said
Jackson. "There's a universe of content and service providers
that have an interest in seeing a more neutral platform
Mozilla will initially look to compete in so-called
"emerging economies" in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia,
where many people still use older phone models and have yet to
upgrade to more expensive smartphones that feature touchscreens
and high-speed Internet connections.
The first phones will be available this summer in Brazil,
Columbia, Poland, Venezuela, Serbia and Spain.
The first Firefox OS phones that Telefonica will offer this
summer come with a wholesale price of $100. The price that
consumers pay for the phone will vary in different markets and
depend on whether the phone is offered on a pre-paid basis or
comes with a service contract, a Telefonica spokesman said.
Telefonica will eventually offer higher-end Firefox OS
phones, and plans to offer Firefox devices in all 25 countries
that it operates in by the end of 2014.