Mozilla, of all companies, has announced its intentions to jump into the smartphone OS race next year with the release of Firefox OS. The name is reminiscent of Google’s Chrome OS for desktop computers, but it’s designed to compete in the low-end smartphone market. Or, in corporate speak, to “deliver compelling smartphone experiences at attainable prices.”
Firefox OS is based on Mozilla’s “Boot to Gecko project” and is designed to be completely reliant on HTML5. Everything from phone calls and text messages to apps will be handled using web standards and powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor. Two hardware manufacturers – TCL Communication Technology (a division of Alcatel One Touch) and ZTE – and seven carriers – Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, and Telenor – are already backing Firefox OS, with the first handset set to debut on Telefónica’s Vivo network in Brazil in early 2013.
The question is, do we really need another smartphone OS? Android and iOS currently have a vice-like grip on the mobile market. Windows Phone is slowly gaining momentum, but the rest of the mobile operating systems like BlackBerry and Symbian are rapidly losing market share. Mozilla might have a chance, but only if it aims for the lowest end of the spectrum.