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Mozilla to launch Firefox smartphone OS in 2013

Open standards competition for Google and others

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Mozilla's 'Boot to Gecko' project will be launched as a fully-fledged smartphone operating system next year to offer users an open alternative to proprietary and partially closed rivals, the non-profit organisation has announced.

The announcement is not a huge surprise as B2G has rumbled along for a year since inception, but Mozilla has offered an unexpected level of commercial detail of what will be known as the Firefox OS.

Leaning heavily of HTML5, the Firefox OS will be planted firmly in the lower end of the price spectrum, the better to offer an accessible platform. That won't mean low-end hardware, however, with Qualcomm's large diverse family of Snapdragon processors pencilled to power the first smartphones.

The Firefox OS will also be as global as possible as the list of networks signing up to back the software suggests; Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor were all mentioned in the official announcement.

Handsets will be made by ZTE and TCL Communication Technology (using Alcatel's brand); the OS will make its debut in “early” 2013 from Telefónica’s Brazilian Vivo brand.

“Due to the optimisation 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 to drive adoption across developing markets, “said the launch announcement, confidently.

As promised, the underlying APIs are in the process of being submitted to W3C for standardisation. And this is where the whole B2G first saw the light of day; frustration at the lack of a truly open mobile platform for developers to get their teeth into.

“The introduction of the open mobile OS continues the Mozilla mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web for users and developers,” said Mozilla CEO, Gary Kovacs

“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.”

“The large number of operators and manufacturers now supporting this effort will bring additional resources and diversity to our global offerings.”

Some will worry that 2013 is a tad late in the day to be building a new mobile OS but a clutch of networks clearly want an alternative to dancing on the head of the Apple/Google duopoly's tightly-controlled pin. Networks would like to be seen not merely as the delivery mechanism but as part of the service itself and an open OS offers that potential.

If it can attract enough developers, the Firefox OS could be their saviour.


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