What does Firefox OS have to do to break into the market?
The long awaited HTML5-based mobile OS from Mozilla, previously known by its working title Boot to Gecko, will be released as Firefox OS, with a number of operators signed up to support it.
Sprint in the US and the European telecoms giant Telefonica are two of the companies already associated with the launch, expected to be rolled out next year, starting in Brazil. Other operators pledging support include Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Telecom Italia and Telenor.
Firefox OS, built on a Linux kernel like Android, allows all features on the phone to be run with HTML5, even basic messaging and call functions. In theory this should bring down the cost of producing the hardware, while making it much easier for developers to integrate hardware features and functions of the handsets into their apps.
ZTE and Alcatel One Touch are reported to be working on Firefox OS based devices, though little is yet known about these, other than they’ll incorporate Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips.
At Mobile World Congress in February, Mozilla and Telefonica announced that they were partnering to develop the first handsets using the Boot to Gecko based OS. Wally Swain, senior VP of research at the analyst firm Yankee Group, managed to get his hands on one of the basic prototypes back then.
He reported that the device performed well, carrying out basic functions and delivering an excellent browsing experience.
At the time, Telefonica said the cost of materials for the phone was $60, which Swain estimated would result in an end-user retail price of about $100. “The challenge really isn't Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor or Mozilla's license fee but items beyond the direct control of the partnership, like touch screens,” he said.
The retail price means that, rather than sliding into the high volume sub-$100 market, Firefox OS handsets will compete with lower-end Android devices from Huawei, ZTE and even Samsung’s Galaxy Mini, as well as with ‘smarter’ feature phones like the Nokia Asha series.
“Branding will make the difference,” added Swain. “The announced operator partners have brand strength to carry what amounts to a no-name device, but other operators will find these phones difficult to place in their portfolios.”
With almosty daily reminders of what a dog-eat-dog place the worldwide smartphone market currently is, what will Firefox OS have to do to make an appreciable dent in the game? How crucial is that sub-$100 price-tag? Let us know in the comments section below...