Mozilla Goes Mobile With Big Firefox OS Phone Launch

No longer just an idea, Mozilla announces that 17 global carriers are set to adopt Firefox OS phones.

In the open source mobile world, where vendors announce new phone efforts with alarming regularity, action speaks louder than words. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, open source vendor Mozilla is acting on its mobile ambitions.

Mozilla is announcing that at least 17 carriers spanning the globe have now committed to carrying FirefoxOS-based mobile smartphones. The carriers include: América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telefónica, Telenor, TMN and VimpelCom.

The carrier expansion represents a net addition of ten new carriers since July of 2012. Mozilla rebranded its Boot2Gecko mobile phone effort as FirefoxOS at that time and laid out a strategy that included working with global carriers. Mozilla is facing an uphill battle against existing mobile vendors Apple IOS and Google Android as well as challenges from open source upstarts, including Samsung Tizen and the Canonical Ubuntu Phone.

From a hardware perspective, Mozilla announced that manufacturers Alcatel (TCL), LG, ZTE and Huawei are all building FirefoxOS phones. All of the phones are set to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processors.

Brendan Eich, CTO of Mozilla, told Datamation that carriers are flocking to FirefoxOS because there is a need for an alternative. He noted that both Apple IOS and Google Android are difficult for mobile carriers to add value on top off. Additionally, both of those mobile operating systems treat the web as a second class citizen. Instead, they both favor a native app model that requires extra layers of technology. In contrast, FirefoxOS is all about HTML5 and JavaScript, the same base ingredients that power the Internet as we know it today.

“We have very fast platform because we don't need the extra layers,” Eich said.

Eich added that in Google and Apple models, the primary relationship for the consumer is with the Apple AppStore or Google Play and not the carrier. He stressed that the carriers don't want to be thought of as just dumb pipes.

With the FirefoxOS model, Eich noted that operators can add value, for example with the emerging WebRTC standard for real time communications. The WebRTC standard will enable video and voice conference directly through the browser, leveraging the backend carrier infrastructure.

Linux

FirefoxOS relies on Linux at its core. Eich doesn't see the Linux piece as being a differentiator.

“We use the same Linux version that goes into Android,” Eich said. “We're flexible and open but we're not trying to add a lot of value at the Linux layer.”

By using the same Linux as Android, some of the same baseboard reference architectures that enable Android will also work for FirefoxOS.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.




Tags: Linux, mobile, phone, Mozilla Firefox, Firefox OS


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