Mobile World Congress: Mozilla Lines Up 18 Operators for Firefox Mobile OS

If mobile network operators were content with the current stable of operating systems in the market today, Mozilla certainly would not have the backing of 18 operators around the globe. Mozilla previewed its Firefox OS here at Mobile World Congress with a significant number of carrier executives on stage, announcing that the first devices to run the open mobile ecosystem will be made available to customers in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela beginning in July.

The company, which was founded more than a decade ago, also unveiled a new brand marketing campaign here at a press conference under the slogan “unleash the fox.” The first low-end devices running on Firefox OS will be released by Alcatel, LG, ZTE and Huawei. But Sony Mobile also announced a new joint technical collaborative effort with Telefonica to “explore the development of a handset running Mozilla’s Firefox OS open source mobile platform.” The device maker hopes to bring a Firefox OS device to market in 2014, says Bob Ishida, deputy chief executive and EVP at Sony Mobile.

Mozilla’s partners made it clear that they expect Firefox OS to emerge as a contender in the highly competitive, price sensitive market for smartphones under $100 or even $50.

Mozilla chief executive Gary Kovacs says most Firefox OS customers will be purchasing a smartphone for the first time. Paul Jacobs, chief executive of Qualcomm, reiterated that point during the announcement, referring to “high-volume smartphones.” Each of the Firefox OS devices will be powered by the San Diego, California based company’s Snapdragon mobile processors.

And referring to the collaborative effort with Sony Mobile, Marieta del Rivero, group devices director at Telefonica says it “will create the opportunity to reach new segments of the market.”

A number of app developers and content providers have already committed to building apps for Firefox OS, such as Disney, MTV, Facebook, Airbnb, Twitter, EA, TimeOut, Here (from Nokia), Box and others. Every feature and application in Firefox OS will be developed as an HTML5 application and Mozilla claims the OS will “bypass the typical hindrances of HTML5 on mobile” by leveraging the internal capabilities of each device. “The platform’s flexibility allows carriers to easily tailor the interface and develop localized services that match the unique needs of their customer base,” the company adds.

Following his comments about building a mobile OS upon an ecosystem that’s already well established via the Internet, Kovacs adds: “We’re not going to have the only marketplace. I expect many marketplaces to flourish, some may be run by operators.”

In addition to its early device and technology partners, Mozilla has enlisted support from America Movil, China Unicom Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telefonica, Telenor, Telstra, TMN and VimpelCom.

As for plans to release a device in the US, which is believed to be powered by Sprint, Kovacs only says: “We have plans, we have partners lined up. I expect somewhere in the 2014 timeframe.”

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