Is The World Ready for New Mobile Operating Systems?: Firefox OS


By mention of the word ‘Firefox’, Mozilla Firefox, the developer-friendly and third most popular browser in the world comes to mind.

The Mozilla Corporation set out to build Firefox OS in what was known as Project Boot To Gecko from as early as 2011. It is based on Linux just like Android and Ubuntu with the only differentiating factor being that FOS only focuses on being a web platform through which HTML 5 based apps can run by taking the full advantage of the Firefox browser unlike the native applications that we are used to on current mobile operating systems.

It was officially demoed at MWC and has already been out on various devices for testing purposes. Devices like the Geekphones Keon and Peak, Alcatel One Touch Fire and ZTE Open have all been shown running FOS well.

The ZTE Open running Firefox OS. Notice the rounded app icons. PHOTO: CNET UK

The major point of FOS is its over-emphasis on working with the least of resources spec-wise unlike its competitors like Android which is a hog for everything. This augurs well with the assertion that the OS is mainly aimed at developing nations. The markets in developing nations are currently in transition mode with most people switching from feature phones to smartphones. A low-spec smartphone with a good OS will surely do well in these markets since the bargain specs also directly mean that the cost of the device won’t be far away from the reach of the majority.

Will Firefox OS get marketshare? This is something we’ll have to wait and see. While it mainly targets markets in developing countries, it is almost given that it will penetrate these markets as it is been hoped. It also doesn’t sound like a good thing to have an OS that targets the low-level segment yet the data costs are ludicrously high. Native apps would’ve been appropriate but well, that difference with already existing platforms would be all but gone. With carriers coming through (Mozilla has entered into agreements with 17 carriers currently), the data barrier will easily be overcome since there will most likely be good offers where both parties will have an advantage. Does it stand a chance? Yes and no. Mozilla has a large following and surely the apps will come though this will take time. I have my misgivings about the FOS rounded app icons but that’s not a great issue right now, it will get better design-wise with time, I believe.

There is the big issue of getting OEMs to bundle Firefox OS on their devices. So far various manufacturers like Alcatel, ZTE and LG have committed themselves to fully support this course. There is promise that Huawei will follow suit later in the year with Sony joining the bandwagon sometime next year. Sony has even gone ahead to release a test ROM for use in its Xperia E Android device which has basic low end specs (minimum requirements include a single core 800 MHz processor, 256 MB RAM and a QVGA display) like those targeted by FOS. Samsung has come out clearly to say that it has no plans to release devices running FOS soon. This is understandable since the South Korean giant is focusing all its energies on its current expansive line up of multi-platform devices and also pumping up support for its own new kid on the block, Tizen.

FOS will first be available in select countries like Hungary, Brazil, Spain, Serbia, Montenegro, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela and Poland.