Mozilla has announced that seven telecoms carriers, which include U.S.-based Sprint, will be the first mobile operators to support the organization’s mobile OS based on HTML5.
According to a post on InformationWeek, “Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Telenor are supporting Mozilla’s Firefox OS, though the extent of that support remains unclear. Mozilla has lined up endorsements from executives at its new carrier partners, but those expressions of enthusiasm stop short of commitments to ship actual phones with Firefox OS.”
A New Name
The Mozilla Foundation confirmed that its mobile platform, formerly called the Open Web Devices platform (OWD), now carries a more sellable name: Firefox OS. In the OEM side of things, Alcatel One Touch and ZTE will be the first companies to produce Firefox OS devices using Qualcomm Snapdragon chips. We have yet to receive word on actual specs.
Sprint’s roadmap for offering the web-based smartphones is not yet available. Telefónica, a telecom company based in Spain, intends to launch the first Firefox OS devices in Brazil through Vivo early next year. A Firefox OS device will then come out from Sprint a couple of months later. Fared Adib, Sprint’s product chief, says in a statement, “Firefox Mobile OS can help us drive an HTML5-based platform for creating lower cost smartphone options for prepaid, postpaid and wholesale customers.”
Mozilla’s main sponsor, Google, currently offers open-source mobile and Web-based operating systems Android and Chrome OS, respectively. However, Google’s openness is not enough for Mozilla.
The whole concept of Firefox OS is to make a low-cost smartphone operating system that uses open Web technologies as basis, rather than proprietary systems like Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone. Firefox OS actually stems from Mozilla’s Boot 2 Gecko project, which revolves around the Firefox Web browser’s rendering engine as the core of a mobile OS.
The entire software structure of Firefox OS devices will use HTML5, from the phone dialer to the messaging app to the image gallery. According to Mozilla, this method will allow Web applications to capitalize a device’s hardware, such as a camera or gyroscope. Smartphones today find it difficult to achieve the task.
Even so, HTML5 has not yet proven itself to be as attractive to developers, who are into high profile gaming projects, as coding apps in native programming languages. HTML5 is relatively new in development tools. It has holes and plagued by audio-related performance issues compared to native APIs.
“The introduction of the open mobile OS continues the Mozilla mission to promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the Web for users and developers,” said Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs in a statement. “As billions of users are expected to come online for the first time in the coming years, it is important to deliver a compelling smartphone experience that anyone can use.”
“There’s already an emerging duopoly market with Android and iOS,” said Forrester analyst Charles Golvin, as he sees little demand for another open-source mobile OS. “And Microsoft with Windows 8 will be the most aggressive to expand the market.”
Stay tuned for more of the latest news on this story.