Light Reading

Firefox: Smartphones for All?

Dan Jones
2/26/2013
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The Firefox mobile OS is burning up the show here in Barcelona.

The Mozilla booth has been thronged with curious attendees all day. Carriers such as Telefonica are palpably excited about having another real open-source alternative to Android. Hell, the very orange Firefox knit hat -- with ears! -- might even be the chic geek accessory to have in chilly Barcelona. [Ed note: Maybe for those without a fashion sense to spare.]

The reasons why are easy to see: Carriers love free open-source operating systems because it helps to drive down the cost of the smartphone. This is particularly important as they look to sell cheap smartphones -- think $100 or less -- and seriously cheap data plans in countries where $200-plus devices just aren't an option.

In addition, some operators outside the U.S. aren't so keen on Google's Android strategy because Google stores emails that can be accessed on the Android phones on U.S.-based servers, which can cause regulatory issues. This has opened the door for an alternative such as Firefox.

The pure Web and HTML5-based nature of Firefox will also make it attractive to developers looking for the next cash cow after iOS.

Certainly, Firefox phones don't have to be an iPhone killer (or whatever bogus terminology is now in use) to succeed. They just have to work well enough, proliferate like Android and give many people a cheap and reliable way to get on the Web.

I can certainly think of some problems ahead. A smartphone that is someone's main connection to the world in many countries needs a good, reliable mobile payments and banking infrastructure.

From my limited research so far, I'm seeing some interesting apps but not everything I would think needed yet. I'm sure Mozilla and its supporters will move to address that.

Still, Firefox seems like the most interesting new contender we've seen in the mobile OS field for a while.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
3/1/2013 | 2:20:44 PM
re: Firefox: Smartphones for All?
Yeah, the carriers will come for the free, they might stay for the extra control.
lrmobile_jepovic
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lrmobile_jepovic,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/27/2013 | 11:58:52 AM
re: Firefox: Smartphones for All?
Very interesting! This is not mainly about getting a free OS for very cheap phones - that would be an underestimate of the strategic significance. There are many strong players, both carriers and terminal vendors, who would love to squeeze out Android and Google and get ore control themselves. It opens up business opportunities for carriers or their local partners in payments, music, games, you name it.
It gets really interesting if one considers the longterm (which could be only 2 years away) consequences for the industries like tablets, online marketing, email and even search engines.
Android has demonstrated just how easy it could be to introduce a new mobile OS. The consumers just don't seem to care very much about the OS.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2013 | 10:05:25 AM
re: Firefox: Smartphones for All?
The interesting technical question about Firefox is how will it affect signaling loads on the networks. An always-connected OS would seem to be likely to flood the signaling channels of 3G networks if it gets really popular.

I've got a video on this topic coming soon and I'm asking around here at the show. Anyone knows more, let me know.
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