We've known since February that Mozilla was working on a mobile OS for smartphones. The non-profit had a goal of creating cheap smartphones that were targeted at markets in developing countries. Those plans are now more concrete as Mozilla has announced the carriers that will distribute Firefox Mobile OS phones around the world.
Today, Mozilla announced that seven carriers have thrown their support behind the open source Firefox OS that will be powering cheap smartphones in the near future. Mozilla will be using the Firefox brand for the name of its new OS for brand recognition and to signal its commitment to HTML5. The first companies to offer Firefox phones include Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Telenor.
TCL Communication Technology and ZTE will be the companies manufacturing the hardware that will power the new phones. The only hardware specs we know so far is that the phones will be equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. Since these are supposed to be cheap phones, my money is on the S4 Play.
The really exciting thing about the Firefox Mobile OS is that it's built on Mozilla's Boot to Gecko project. It will allow HTML5 applications to access all the power the phone has to offer. On Android and iOS, applications must be built natively to have access to that same power. Mozilla will also be building all of the essential phone capabilities (calling, messaging, games) on HTML5.
“The introduction of the open mobile OS continues the Mozilla mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web for users and developers. As billions of users are expected to come online for the first time in the coming years, it is important to deliver a compelling smartphone experience that anyone can use,” said Gary Kovacs, CEO, Mozilla. “The large number of operators and manufacturers now supporting this effort will bring additional resources and diversity to our global offerings.”
You can expect to see the first Firefox Mobile OS-powered devices hitting the market in 2013. Unfortunately, they will only be available in Brazil at first, but they will definitely spread beyond South America. Remember, this is Mozilla's goal to help get more people connected to the Web through cheap devices. The devices will probably not be super popular in developed countries where iOS and Android already have a presence, but I would love to get my hands on one nonetheless.
With that being said, I'm sure it will launch at some point in the U.S. The scalability of Firefox Mobile OS means that it can run on just about any hardware as it's based entirely in HTML5. We might see some really powerful smartphones hitting the U.S. market completely powered by the Web by the end of 2013.