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By 26 February 2013 | Categories: news

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At the 2013 Mobile World Congress (MWC) currently underway in Barcelona, Spain, Mozilla announced that 18 operators have committed to its new mobile platform - Firefox OS - which will power the “world’s first Open Web Devices.” These mobile operators include Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, and Telefónica.

The browser maker is working with handset manufacturers Alcatel, Huawei, LG and ZTE to build the first Firefox OS operating mobile devices, which will all be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets. Mozilla expects the first mobile phones to become available to consumers in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Poland, Spain and Venezuela later this year, with additional markets to be revealed “soon.”

Firefox OS

According to Mozilla, Firefox OS includes all the features users require from their smartphones out of the box such as making and receiving calls, messaging (SMS and MMS), email, and camera functionality. Furthermore, users also have access to additional features the likes of built-in cost controls (data and voice calls), social networking integration (Facebook and Twitter), location-based services, the Firefox web browser, and Firefox Marketplace for downloading apps.

Firefox OS also offers a deep contextual search ability that enables users to search within apps and on the web at the same time. For instance, a search for a particular music artist will not only obtain web-based info about that artist such as a link to their website or Facebook page, but also include in-app track purchases, and the ability to buy concert tickets via a ticketing app.

The Firefox Marketplace will offer apps in categories that include games, news and media, business as well as productivity, with these apps being tied to a user’s online identity, allowing them to utilise the apps across different devices and platforms.

Mozilla stated that many leading mobile apps and web developers have started releasing their apps for the Firefox Marketplace, including Twitter with Twitter for Firefox OS. The company said that its Firefox Marketplace will include popular global apps the likes of AccuWeather, Cut the Rope, Disney Mobile Games, EA games, Facebook, and Nokia HERE, along with a selection of local apps that are relevant to users within their respective regions. A total app count for the number of apps that the Firefox Marketplace will house at launch has not been provided.

Prospects

While we are in favour of new mobile platforms, especially if these offer new features or user experiences, we can’t help but wonder about the prospects for Firefox OS within an already crowded and highly competitive mobile OS space.

Android and iOS dominate due in no small part to well-developed app ecosystems, with both these platforms offering north of 800 000 applications.  

New platforms, the likes of Firefox OS, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10, start off on the back foot, since they provide a significantly lower app tally, missing out on many of the crucial apps such as Instagram and Twitter’s new Vine video sharing service. As a result of this, we don’t believe new platforms will easily entice users away from either iOS or Android.    

Unlike its rivals though, Firefox looks set to take on Android in the budget smartphone arena, which is a segment neither Windows Phone nor BlackBerry 10 can crack due to the comparatively high minimum specification requirements needed by these platforms.

The prevailing question though, is whether Firefox OS could be a successful market disruptor within the mobile arena, and repeat the success it had with its Firefox browser when it was launched into an IE-dominated browser space. If so, this could certainly portend an exciting industry shake-up.

For a closer look at the new mobile operating system check out the video posted below.  

 

In related news, Mozilla also recently announced the release of the latest edition of its popular Firefox web browser, with Firefox 19 now finally incorporating a built-in browser PDF viewer that enables users to read PDFs directly from within the browser.

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