The Smartphone wars are being fought between Apple’s iOS, Google Android, Blackberry RIM, and Windows Phone. And the newest entrant in the fray is Mozilla. Not satisfied with giving Microsoft’s Internet Explorer a serious run for its money, Mozilla has announced that Firefox OS for Smartphones would be in phones come 2013.
With Apple capturing the high end market and Enterprise in Blackberry’s pocket, Android has captured everything else, and has even managed to eat into Apple’s share with the Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC One X, and Nexus tabs. In the light of this scenario one wonders where Mozilla hopes to fit in. are they looking to carve out a niche or erode market shares of Android and Apple?
Most industry analysts feel that the last stand in the Smartphone war will be fought between Android and Apple iOS. They also feel that Apple’s unique ecosystem will make it difficult for it to become more popular than Android.
According to the CEO of Mozilla Taiwan, the launch of the Firefox OS is an attempt by them to bring Mozilla’s core values of honesty, opportunity on the web and modernization to end users and developers in the Smartphone arena. They also claim that this OS is ‘truly open’ and will be accessible to the multitude of users in new markets who would not have been able to afford a Smartphone otherwise. Reading between the lines I would say they were aiming for inexpensive entry level Smartphones, hoping to capture that market.
Though Google maintains that Android is an open platform, the truth is that it is still in chains. Most vendors/developers still have to pay license fees to Microsoft for using Android. This means a drain of the profit margin for them. Easier development of apps means more affordable Smartphones, and that is exactly what Mozilla is counting on. So maybe the Firefox OS will be able to carve out a place for itself as a free and open source platform.
Initially named Boot to Gecko or B2G, the Firefox OS enables HTML 5 apps to access the phone’s underlying abilities. Currently this is possible only for native apps. An open source HTML 4 platform will enable operators to effectively manage the handset experience, so it’s no surprise that several are keen to hop on to the Firefox OS bandwagon. Alcatel (TCL) and ZTE have been announced as the handset manufacturers and service providers are likely to be Sprint, Smart, Etisalat, Telenor and a few others. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors are most likely to be the processors used for the future Firefox OS Smartphones.
But the road to Firefox’s success is paved with huge craters named iOS and Android. With the majority of the world’s population hooked on to either of the two mobile operating systems, it is going to be very difficult for Firefox to find takers. Developers will be reluctant to leave the goose that lays the golden egg for them. Mozilla is no Goliath like Microsoft or Google; how much success they can achieve with their limited resources remains to be seen.
If they do manage to do a good job on this, they might just be able to corner the entry-level (read cheaper) Smartphone segment. Well only the future will tell; or in Mozilla’s case, 2013 will.