The mobile platform landscape has completely transformed in the last year or so. Symbian, MeeGo & webOS are platforms of the past, Windows Phone is failure of expectations and BlackBerry OS may soon be an extent specie. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the unrivaled dominance of iOS and Android.
In February, Mozilla, best known for the FireFox web browser, announced its intent to disrupt the mobile ecosystem with an offering of its own. Back then, Mozilla claimed that its Boot to Gecko (B2G) would be a winner as it’s built with a plan to fill the gaps in the current market.
And yesterday, Mozilla formally launched B2G as Firefox OS and announced that it will launch several phones with a new Firefox operating system in early 2013. The company has roped in Chinese device makers TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd. (in partnership with Alcatel) and ZTE Corp to make the first devices to run the new operating system. The company has also tied up with several high profile carriers including Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, Smart, Telecom Italia, Telenor and Etisalat to launch the FireFox OS on a global scale.
However, the fundamental question remains – does the Firefox OS stand a chance against iOS and Android?
The company claims that Firefox OS will be a “fully open mobile ecosystem,” built entirely on open web standards, with apps developed as HTML5 applications. The obvious advantage – developers can create mobile apps using HTML5 atop a Linux-based operating system that anyone can modify. While it sounds a perfect plan on paper, I see two fundamental problems with this approach. First, the HTML5 revolution seems to be taking forever. We’ve been hearing for the last couple of years that HTML5 is the future but clearly, it’s still not the present.
Secondly, I think it would be a monumental task for Mozilla to make up for its late mover advantage in the mobile segment. By the time Firefox OS-based devices launch, it would be almost impossible to play catch up with Android and iOS.
“The introduction of the open mobile OS continues the Mozilla mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web for users and developers. As billions of users are expected to come online for the first time in the coming years, it is important to deliver a compelling smartphone experience that anyone can use,” said Gary Kovacs, CEO, Mozilla. “The large number of operators and manufacturers now supporting this effort will bring additional resources and diversity to our global offerings.”
The good part, though, is that, Mozilla knows its sweet spot in the global mobile ecosystem. The company is making a conscious effort to target emerging markets, starting with Brazil in 2013. However, plans are just plans and whether Mozilla can match action with words and results, time will tell.