Mozilla Attempts to Pick up the Pieces, Appoints Interim CEO

by Matt Klassen on April 16, 2014

Mozilla has named company CMO Chris Beard as interim CEO as it attempts to recover from the firestorm of controversy surrounding the short and messy tenure of former CEO Brendan Eich. The hope is, of course, that Mozilla clients will quickly forget about the short-lived Eich era at the company, mitigating the effects of Eich’s political stance on the company’s technological future.

Beard is a long-time employee of Mozilla, taking a number of key leadership roles in product development, innovation, and marketing, including overseeing the development of Firefox for Android and the Firefox mobile operating system. He brings to the table knowledge of the mobile market and a strong vision for how Mozilla’s own mobile strategy (not to mention that he has no known controversial political affiliations).

But if its Mozilla’s hope that the controversy surrounding Eich’s stance on gay marriage will quietly disappear it seems such thinking is misguided, both because critics of Eich and the firm itself are still clamouring for an apology following Eich’s appointment and subsequent resignation and because it really shouldn’t be an issue Mozilla is focusing on at all, given that all it will really take for the firm to recover is a strong mobile product. Suffice it to say, hounded by controversy, losing ground in the browser segment, and still unsure of how to enact its mobile strategy, questions are being asked if, and how, Mozilla can survive.

Mozilla stands at a crossroads, one path leading towards growth in emerging markets with the company’s highly touted ultra-affordable smartphone, and other leading to mass adoption by global carriers looking for a viable third alternative to Android and iOS. While it’s unclear if Mozilla even wants to attempt to traverse the latter path, the reality is for any long-term success in this market the non-profit tech firm is going to have to find a way to walk both paths simultaneously.

As E-Commerce Times writers Richard Adhikari explains, “The trick to winning market share is not to fight yesterday’s battle, which is what the bid to make an inexpensive smartphone constitutes, but to look ahead.”

“I would look for someone more familiar with the embedded world, because that’s where the industry is heading with Internet of Things applications,” Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, told TechNewsWorld.

But before Mozilla can worry about its mobile strategy going forward, the company has to worry about who is going to lead it there over the long term, and despite the feeling on Mozilla’s Board of Directors that Beard is a ‘strong candidate’ to be the next CEO, the general feeling is that the only way for Mozilla to put the Eich era behind it is to hire someone outside the company, a fresh face

“Mozilla must show a counter strategy to their last search, which means going external and now likely bringing in a proven CEO who has been well vetted and is known in the tech community. A new chapter starts with a new leader who is new to the organization with new, inclusive beliefs,” said Jason Hanold, managing partner of leading boutique executive search firm Hanold Associates.

If Mozilla continues to worry about inclusiveness as it searches for its new CEO the firm is doomed to fail, both at appeasing the vocal minority and finding a perch in the mobile market. The company has already shown both its lack of foresight and its lack of backbone as it appointed Eich with full knowledge of his beliefs and then withdrew its support from Eich once things got tough; if it now hires a smiling face of inclusiveness in a knee-jerk reaction to Eich its doubtful things will get any better.

As Mukul Krishna, senior global director at Frost & Sullivan, told TechNewsWorld, “Whom they bring in to take over the leadership and what’s going to be their next move, especially when it comes to mobility, will give the market a good indication of its survivability,” and if that next move is to repeatedly focus on just how inclusive Mozilla really is, it will be clear to me Mozilla simply doesn’t have the right mindset to be a serious mobile player.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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