Mozilla shows preview smartphones, asking developers to test Firefox mobile OS

Telecom Lead Asia: The Mozilla Foundation has launched two preview smartphones, asking developers to test Firefox OS mobile operating system.

The development has the potential to challenge the market dominance of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

Recently, Analysys Mason said Android smartphones will account for 58 percent of smartphone shipments by the end of 2013, but will then stagnate and maintain that level of market share for the next 4 years, largely because of a lack of other platforms from which to capture additional market share.

Microsoft Windows will be the fastest-growing operating system (OS) in terms of number of shipments in the next 5 years, growing from 11 million units in 2011 to 136 million units by 2017.

Analysys Mason says Windows smartphones will account for 9 percent of the world’s smartphone shipments in 2017, compared to Apple’s 23 percent and Android’s 58 percent.

The free software community will ship to developers who want to make apps for its forthcoming open-source mobile platform. The devices will ship in early February with no option to pre-order, and the platform itself, built on open web standards, won’t be available to consumers till later this year. Spain’s Geeksphone will help build the handsets.

The announcement marked a major step forward for the new Firefox OS mobile operating system which is being built using open web standards, like its Firefox web browser.

“This week we are announcing our new Firefox OS developer preview phones because we believe that developers will help bring the power of the web to mobile,” said a blog posting from Stormy Peters, head of websites and developer engagement at Mozilla.

The developer phones are being made by GeeksPhone in partnership with the Spanish telecom major Telefonica. Analysts say Mozilla’s phones will be relatively cheap and available around the world.

The operating system, she said, is an effort to keep the Web open and help make sure the power of the web is available to everyone — even on mobile devices. “You’re not locked in to a vendor-controlled ecosystem. You can distribute your app through the Firefox Marketplace, your own website, or any other store based on Mozilla’s open app store technology.”

GeeksPhone said on its website that the two new phones were named Keon, with a 3.5 inch display, and Peak, with a larger 4.3 inch screen. Both will use Qualcomm Snapdragon chips.

MORE ANDROID NEWS: Android OS has captured 41 percent share in mobile OS market in the third quarter of 2012 from 29 percent in last year’s quarter. Apple iOS slipped to 57 percent global market share from 65 percent.

Nick Dillon, senior analyst at Ovum, said: “Much like Chrome OS in the desktop, Firefox OS is an interesting academic exercise that will test the limits of what is currently possible with mobile web technologies. However, a web-only Firefox OS will not facilitate a dramatic change in the approach to mobile application development. There is already good support for HTML5 web technologies on the existing major smartphone platforms, meaning that there is little need for another platform in order to drive their adoption forward.

Another significant barrier to the success of Firefox OS will be cost. The Firefox OS devices will be targeted at emerging markets, where they will be competing with low to mid-tier Android devices. From a consumer perspective, the Firefox OS devices will offer less functionality than comparable Android devices, without access to embedded Google services and the hundreds of thousands of third-party applications available on Android devices.

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