Mozilla has announced further carrier and handset manufacturer support for its Firefox OS mobile operating system, with the first devices powered by the OS due to launch commercially in Brazil in early 2013 through Telefonica’s commercial brand, Vivo.
As the latest in a line of operator-backed mobile OS initiatives, the Firefox OS is a pared-down platform which relies solely on web technologies for its applications, outside of core phone functions.
Despite being an interesting academic exercise, it is unclear how the OS will be able to successfully compete in the crowded smartphone marketplace, even with the support of operators and handset companies. While Ovum does believe that the future of mobile application development is in web technologies, the limitations of the device combined with its projected cost means that the device will struggle to achieve commercial success.
Carriers try once again to own the platform
This new agreement is an extension of the partnership formed by Telefonica and Mozilla earlier in 2012 at Mobile World Congress. New operators joining Telefonica are Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, and Telenor. Additionally, TCL Communication Technology (under the Alcatel One Touch brand) and ZTE have agreed to manufacture the first devices to feature the new Firefox OS.
This is certainly not the first time operators have got involved with operating systems; LiMo and before that SavaJe were tried (and failed) attempts by operators to wrestle control of the platform back from handset companies and OTT players.
By extension, the Wholesale Application Community (WAC) could also be viewed in the same light, albeit focused on the application level rather than the underlying platform. However, as these previous initiatives have illustrated, operator support is certainly no guarantee of a platform’s success, in fact the added complication of having multiple partners could actually be detrimental to the success of the project.