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