Look out, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. Even as those two mobile platforms battle to secure third place behind Google's Android and Apple's iOS, the Firefox OS is making strides to become an inexpensive but powerful contender.
Earlier this week, Gary Kovacs, CEO of Firefox OS maker Mozilla, said devices using his organization's open-source platform would be available in as many as five countries in Europe and South America by sometime this summer.
The initial countries are Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Poland and Venezuela, and Mozilla has also identified Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro and Serbia as target markets. Spanish company Geeksphone recently announced it would have its two Firefox OS models, the Peak and Keon smartphones, available as developer preview units next week.
Keon Through FCC Labs
Smartphones have their greatest growth potential in emerging countries, especially for those models which are feature-rich but relatively inexpensive, and Mozilla has made it clear that those markets are key to Firefox OS's global success. Those are also markets where Nokia had been king, but the Finnish handset maker's transition to the Windows Phone platform has been a bumpy one, and it is in danger of losing its low-end position in emerging markets. In the first quarter, for instance, Nokia lost 60 percent of its market share in China because of competing low-cost devices from Chinese manufacturers.
Geeksphone has also announced that the cheaper of the two Firefox phones, Keon, has gotten through testing in the labs of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) -- a key step in getting approval to sell in the U.S. market. This 3.5-inch handset sports a HVGA display and a 1GHz single-core Snapdragon S17225A processor, and can be used in the U.S. or worldwide. Expected U.S. retail price for the Keon will be about $120, and about $195 for the Peak.
Alcatel One Touch, ZTE, Huawei, Sony and LG have committed to manufacture low-end models using this platform, and carriers Telefonica, Etisalat, Smart, Spring, Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telekom, China Unicorn and Telenor are also on board.
'All Things People Need'
In addition to targeting emerging markets, Firefox's angle is that, instead of native apps written for a specific platform, the platform is designed for Web apps written in HTML5 technologies that are already used on the Web. And, instead of requiring all apps for its platform be distributed through its own store, as Apple does, Mozilla will allow developers to distribute their apps through their Web sites or other app stores, in addition to a Firefox OS one.
Mozilla has said that Firefox OS includes "all the things people need from a smartphone out of the box -- calls, messaging, e-mail, camera and more," in addition to built-in cost controls, social connections to Facebook and Twitter, location-based services, "a new ability to discover one-time user and downloadable apps," and, of course, the Firefox browser.
The posting also said that the Firefox OS provides "far more sophisticated and deeper search capabilities" than are normally available.