Why web OS offerings are the way forward for operators

Rating: Mozilla’s Firefox mobile OS might not be the only contender

HP's webOS might not be entirely doomed

History is littered with mobile OS offerings which never quite made it. Even though, as is the case with the most recently contender – Mozilla’s Firefox OS, they initially had plenty of support from Tier One operators. GoMobile News has just been chatting with Malik Saadi, a principal analyst for mobile innovation with Informa Media and Telecoms. He described previous efforts such as the Java based OS Savaje as “born to die”, whilst the LiMo Foundation was “doomed to die.” There is one very clear difference between these earlier offerings and Firefox. Namely that Firefox is about providing high performance at low cost whereas earlier attempts were hardware intensive and therefore costly. The biggest loser here will undoubtedly be Apple.The quandary for mobile network operators is that they expected the whole emergence of the smartphone phenomenon to create competition between hardware vendors. Instead the market is split between two giants: – Apple and Samsung.

What Firefox will help to drive is revive the emergence of the operator branded handset. Saadi described previous efforts at establishing such devices like O2′s XDA as being “too early and too expensive”.

He also sees that smartphones are rapidly heading towards a PC style model. In which case, handsets will be marketed on slogans like ‘Intel/Snapdragon(Qualcomm)/Mediatek inside’.

Another advantage this time around is that the margins for the duopoly of Apple and Samsung are extremely high. In the case of iPhones, the margin is in the region of 40 per cent.

Hence, Firefox with its emphasis on high performance over low cost hardware will provide plenty of room for operator branded smartphones to undercut the leaders but still provide healthy margins for operators.

Actually, Saadi points out that in terms of software components, Firefox is actually the odd man out.

Tizen, Google’s Chrome and H-P’s webOS all use Webkit and a Linux kernel. Whereas Firefox has its own runtime environment in terms of Geko not Webkit.

For the techies amongst our readers, here’s the roadmap for Firefox. M2.1 (codenamed DogFood) was released in March 2012. Plus there was a developer preview phone (M2.5).

We’ve hit June 2012 and the M4 release of Boot2Gecko (B2G) has emerged as Firefox. There will now be a code freeze for both UI and functional elements.

Version M4.5 for bug fixing will follow as will an OS freeze scheduled for Q1 2013. We’ll then see commercial devices by 2013 and Saadi believes such a timescale is easily obtainable.

All that remains is for Firefox and web based OS handsets to create a viable ecosystem and the chances for Firefox’s survival look bright.

Does this mean that operators might even win back control of the important app and content portals, GoMobile News wonders?

About Tony Dennis

Tony is currently Editor of GoMobile News. He's a veteran telecoms journalist who has previously worked for major printed and online titles. Follow him on Twitter @GoMoTweet.
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2 Responses to Why web OS offerings are the way forward for operators

  1. theNewDanger says:

    The important thing to discuss is what is best for customers. I don’t know any customer that WANTS an ISP controlling their home computer. Why would they want that to change with a miniature one? After all, smartphones are a miniature form of a computer, just with a more overt channel to trigger telephonic activity (make voice calls). I will absolutely go back to a landline if wireless carriers are made able to control my device (moreso than they already do) that I pay for unsubsidized. As much as I appreciate Firefox’s efforts with its desktop browser and open source roots, I absolutely lament it’s methods here to get into the mobile OS segment by bending over even more than Google is doing and screwing end users out of immediate exploitation of their own devices as they see fit. I will rail against Firefox and any carrier that is involved in my country with everything I’ve got should they actually pursue things this way. I’ve already uninstalled everything Firefox from all my devices.

    What you are reading this out to be as the reemergence of the operator branded handset is kind of off. If you haven’t noticed, there are already operator branded handsets, and they have many different versions of operating systems, making carriers complicit in the whole fragmentation debate. In addition, customers don’t and should not care about increasing operator margins for one reason and one reason alone: SPECTRUM IS A LIMITED RESOURCE THAT IS PUBLICLY OWNED! CARRIERS ARE JUST LICENSEES OF IT!

    Carriers should be dumb pipes just like ground/wire line ISPs. It’s actually kind of backwards if you think about it. Wireline ISPs truly OWN their wires. Wireless carriers do not OWN the air! The tone of this article wreaks of corporate interests and really ignores the importance of unfettered hardware use by the end users, whether the device is subsidized or not. Carriers have had their hands too far deep into our phones for long enough and I know of NO ONE who hopes things remain the same or that carriers get to do even more in driving how our phones operate. Wireless companies do not and never should OWN app and content portals. They don’t create the apps and content nor make possible the reason for a framework to exist for apps and content. The right people already OWN those things.

  2. admin says:

    “Your country”? That wouldn’t happen to be the land of the free, would it?

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