MWC 2013: Firefox OS Commercial Release Gets Strong Carrier Support

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Eighteen network operators pledge allegiance to the mobile operating system from Mozilla

Mozilla presented the first commercial build of the Firefox OS on the eve of Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013 in Barcelona, and announced it signed up 18 network operators for its international roll-out, including Deutsche Telekom, Hutchison Three Group, Sprint, Telefónica and VimpelCom.

The company also spruced up its HTML5 app store – the Firefox Marketplace – and fixed it up for better mobile access, with a new search and discovery engine. The OS will be promoted in a new advertising campaign under the slogan “Unleash the Fox”.

Fiery vixen

Announced in 2012, Firefox OS (previously known as Boot to Gecko) is an open source operating system for phones, created entirely in HTML5.

Firefox OS AlcatelMozilla’s CTO Brendan Eich previously described it as the perfect choice for customers in the developing markets. True to this notion, phones running Firefox OS will first appear in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela.

The non-profit organisation has already managed to convince 18 network operators to give the system a try. The first Firefox OS handsets will be made by Alcatel, ZTE and LG, and launched by América Móvil, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Telenor. Huawei is expected to release its own ‘Firephone’ later in the year.

In January, Mozilla had already launched Keon and Peak – two developer preview smartphones running its open-source OS.

“2013 marks the start of a new phase in our industry, one that will be characterized by open standards,” said Cesar Alierta, Chairman and CEO of Telefónica. “For Telefónica and the telco sector as a whole, Firefox OS is a hugely important strategic initiative to change the prevailing value chain in the digital world.

“It is a major step to bring balance back to the telco sector, an initiative with strong cross-industry support. I am very pleased that our customers in Brazil, Colombia, Spain and Venezuela will be amongst the first in the world to experience Firefox OS and I look forward to making it available to all Telefónica customers globally,” he added.

Mozilla has also upgraded the Firefox Marketplace, which will now have such favourites as Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Box, Nokia HERE and Pulse News available from day one. Since apps are tied to an online identity, users will be able to take their software across devices and platforms. The Marketplace will even offer “single use” versions of apps, enabling paying customers to try before they buy.

Firefix OS ZTEIt is important to note that the Firefox Marketplace will not be used as a gatekeeping mechanism and any user will be able to install any compatible HTML5 app from any source.

Mozilla hopes to amass an army of developers for its OS, since, according to Jay Sullivan, Senior VP of Products, “more developers are already creating for the Web than for any other platform.”

“Firefox OS brings the freedom and unbounded innovation of the open Web to mobile users everywhere,” said Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla. “With the support of our vibrant community and dedicated partners, our goal is to level the playing field and usher in an explosion of content and services that will meet the diverse needs of the next two billion people online.”

Tony Cripps, principal device analyst at Ovum, has welcomed the announcement, even though some reservations about the performance of the system remain. “Firefox OS has achieved something that no device software platform has previously managed – translating an industry talking shop into a huge commitment from both carriers and hardware vendors at its commercial launch.

“Neither Android nor Symbian – the closest benchmarks in terms of broad industry sponsorship that we’ve previously seen – have rallied the level of support that Firefox OS has achieved so early in its development.”

“What is clear from the Firefox OS demonstration handsets that we have seen was that they are still some way from being market ready, being both slow and buggy. These issues must be overcome before Firefox OS devices find their way into consumers’ hands,” he added.

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