Firefox OS Could Be Better & Cheaper Than Android

The first device with Firefox OSwill cost less than $100 (Rs 5,500). This was revealed by Matthew Key, the chief operating officer of Telefonica, a telecom operator which will be using Mozilla's upcoming mobile operating system that was announced recently. He also revealed that Brazil will be the first country to receive the device, which will arrive before March 2013 and will be manufactured by Alcatel and ZTE.

Key also said, "The operating system will be better and cheaper than the Android operating system from Google, and will also address update and fragmentation issues that plague Android."

The operating system will be able to reach most parts of the world since its official roll out as prominent operators have said that they will render support to it. These include the likes of like Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Telenor (Uninor in India).

During the Mobile World Congress in February 2012, Mozilla had said that it will launch its own HTML5-based mobile OS for smartphones. The upcoming OS, which was earlier called Boot To Gecko, will be an open platform, wherein the HTML5 based apps will be able to access functions like calling.

Even though Google's Android OS also has HTML5-compatible apps, they cannot access such core functions the same way that stock apps can. This flexibility in the platform will mean that the web apps will be compatible with all editions of the OS, including the most recent ones.

Since the apps will run on the cloud, the devices running Firefox OS will not need expensive hardware, thereby lowering the price of the smartphone without affecting its features. Moreover, the HTML5 support will attract developers since most developers are already well versed with this web standard.

Phones running on Firefox OS will have all the standard features, such as camera, Bluetooth, USB port and Near Field Communication. The platform will be made available for others after W3C will assess and approve the web API standardisation.

We had reported earlier about Mozilla announcing its own operating system for smartphones, Firefox OS, and now we’ve got more information about what this new OS has to offer. The head of Telefonica O2 Europe recently stated  that this OS, dubbed as Boot to Gecko, is as good as Android, in addition to being cheaper. While speaking at the Telefonica Digital conference in London, CEO Matthew Key was keen to point out that the majority of handsets in the market are overly relying on Google’s operating system and he has encouraged other networks to join O2 and its partners to give the project a much needed boost. “The first handset cost is sub-$100 and will be launched before Q1 in Brazil. We can produce the same experience on Android cheaper, or a better experience at the same price,” he said.

Now that is definitely an interesting price tag for a phone, but no specific details have been provided on the specs of the handset. We’re hoping it’s nothing less than what the average droid has on board. Taking into account the end-user perspective, he also went on to point out the fragmentation issues that most of us are facing as most smartphones are not eligible for a software update if it's been a while since their launch.

For those not in the know, this operating system is aimed at powering smartphones built entirely on open Web standards, where all of the device’s features can be developed as HTML5 applications. The Firefox OS for mobile devices is built on Mozilla’s “Boot to Gecko" project, which unlocks many of the current limitations of web development on mobile, allowing HTML5 applications to access the underlying capabilities of a phone that were previously only available to native applications. Telefónica’s Digital unit had partnered with Mozilla early this year to take up this work and showcase a new phone architecture where every phone feature like calling, messaging, games, etc. is an HTML5 application.

During the unveiling, Mozilla stated: "Mapping to key Firefox footprints around the globe, leading operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor are backing the open Firefox OS as an exciting new entrant to the smartphone marketplace. They have also identified the potential of the technology to deliver compelling smartphone experiences at attainable prices."

Mozilla claims that due to the optimization of the platform for entry-level smartphones and the removal of unnecessary middleware layers, mobile operators will have the ability to offer richer experiences at a range of price points, including at the low-end of the smartphone price range; helping drive adoption across developing markets. Mozilla and other participants are committed to ensuring the project is fully open and the reference implementation of the required Web APIs is being submitted to W3C for standardization.

While all of this sounds really good, the key threats the company is facing is that of having mammoth competitors to face. New platforms have been launched time and again, but not many are successful and a lot of them have been shelved mid-way. “We don't underestimate the size of the task,” Key acknowledged. “There have been many new OSes launched and most have them have failed.”

Well, it seems 2013 will be an interesting year for Mozilla.

The first phone using Firefox operating system will be priced below Rs 5,500 and will be launched before March 2013 in Brazil.

Mozilla had earlier announced that smartphones based on Firefox OS will arrive in early 2013. Now the chief operating officer of Telefonica (a telecom operator supporting the OS,) Matthew Key, has said that the first device to ship with the OS will be a sub $100 (Rs 5,500) phone, and will be launched in Brazil before March 2013.

He added, "The operating system will be better and cheaper than the Android operating system from Google, and will also address update and fragmentation issues that plague Android."

The first devices will be made by Alcatel and ZTE. Mozilla shared plans to introduce an HTML5 based mobile operating system for smartphones back in February 2012 at the Mobile World Congress. Previously known as the Boot To Gecko project, it is now called Firefox OS.

Since the OS is based on the HTML5 web standard with HTML5 applications having access to even core functionalities like calling, it will be a very open platform. Though Android OS also supports HTML5 applications, they do not have as free access to core features of the phone as native applications do. This means that applications developed for Firefox operating system will work on all versions of the OS, even the latest.

Support for web apps will also mean that the device will not require expensive hardware as the apps will run on the cloud, reducing the cost of devices without compromising on features.

Support for HTML5 will ensure that it will have developer support, as most developers already have HTML5 capability.

Firefox OS will support the regular set of features - camera, Bluetooth, USB port, and even Near Field Communication. Mozilla will open up the platform for others after the web APIs standardisation has been checked and approved by the W3C.

Gary Kovacs, chief executive officer, Mozilla, said, "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."

Leading operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor (Uninor in India) have announced support for this new operating system. This is likely to ensure that smartphones with Firefox OS will have access to most markets in the world right from the beginning.
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