Mozilla on Sunday demonstrated its new Firefox smartphone operating system alongside a number of the 18 global mobile operators that have pledged to support it.
The new open standards-based OS will run on lower-spec devices than existing smartphone platforms, meaning it will be a valuable tool in bringing smartphones to a greater proportion of the world's mobile users. But more than that, it gives mobile operators a greater opportunity to participate in the smartphone value chain and could break the stranglehold Apple and Google have on the market at present.
Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs likened the mobile market to the way the Internet space was evolving a decade or so ago, before the company released its now widely known Firefox Web browser. ″It's being unnaturally controlled by a few parties,″ he said at a busy press conference on the eve of this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
An HTML5 device will ″enable everyone around the world to participate in mobile,″ he said. ″The Web itself is the ultimate leveller of the playing field.″
Firefox will make it easier for users to get access to all kinds of content and applications, Kovacs pointed out. It's not about having one or two companies approve every piece of content: ″that's a broken model and it needs to change,″ he said.
″[We're] removing the gatekeeper,″ added Jay Sullivan, senior vice president of products at Mozilla. Firefox enables developers to get their software direct to consumers, he said. However, there will be a Firefox Marketplace, the difference between it and existing app stores being that it will not be the only app store available to users. ″We're not going to have the only one,″ Sullivan said. ″There will be many market places,″ some of which will come from the network operators themselves, he said.
″It's going to provide a lot of flexibility for the operators,″ said Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, which is the exclusive provider of silicon for Firefox phones. ″This is going to provide a very, very large ecosystem.″
Indeed, the operators themselves were upbeat about the project.
The OS will ″change the prevailing value chain in the digital world,″