Firefox takes on smartphone powers Apple, Google

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Mozilla, makers of the popular Firefox Internet browser, is preparing to challenge Google and Apple’s grip on smartphone software.

A new Firefox operating system for mobile devices is set for a July release after winning the backing of 13 wireless service providers around the globe, including Spain’s Telefonica, China Unicom and America Movil.

Mozilla is betting there’s room for a software developer-friendly mobile platform alongside Apple’s and Google’s Android, which together power the majority of mobile devices on the planet.

The new software is based on open Web standards and is capable of operating on devices with much lower hardware requirements than today’s existing crop of smarpthones, according to Mozilla.

Because the Firefox OS is open-source and Web-based, third-party developers will be free to sell mobile applications without needing to share revenue with Apple or Google.

“There’s a strategic imperative for the industry to have another OS that really is open and supports choice and competition,” said Mozilla’s Senior Vice President of Products, Jay Sullivan.

Mozilla will showcase some of the first hardware devices based on that software at the Mobile World Congress, taking place in Barcelona this week. Among the brands that have signed on to make devices based on Firefox OS are South Korea’s LG, China’s ZTE and Huawei.

Unlike Google and Apple’s operating systems, which are built from proprietary technology, Firefox OS uses the HTML5 standard that Web services are built with. That means anyone familiar with Web programming can create Firefox OS apps.

Whether a smartphone built on Web standards can deliver the kind of performance that consumers expect remains to be seen. Facebook famously stopped using HTML5 to develop its iPhone app last year, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg saying the technology couldn’t deliver acceptable quality and calling a decision to use HTML5 for its app one of Facebook’s “biggest mistakes.”


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