In what may be remembered as a historic occasion, the first Firefox OS smartphones go on sale today in Spain to rival the market-leading Google Android and Apple iOS operating systems. For the first time, consumers will have the option to support a philosophy of open web standards, free of closed ecosystems and overcrowded app stores. Perhaps more importantly, today’s launch of the Firefox powered, app-free ZTE Open is priced at an extremely reasonable €69 which includes €30 of prepaid data and voice usage, making it readily accessible for first-time smartphone buyers.
For more than a decade, Mozilla, the not-for-profit organization committed to web openness, has been the favorite web browser for HTML5 purists. What’s ironic in this announcement is that Mozilla is bank-rolled largely by Google, the owner of the now competing Android OS. Google pays Mozilla upwards of $300 million per year to ensure Google remains the search engine of choice located directly in Firefox’s browser window. Now, they may be unwittingly backing the early editions of what could become Android’s main operating system rival in the low-cost smartphone category.
“The launch of Firefox OS marks an incredibly exciting time for the mobile industry. Firefox OS powers the first smartphones built entirely on Web technologies and will stimulate an inspiring new wave of innovation for the Web,” says Jay Sullivan, Mozilla Chief Operating Officer. The Chinese manufacturer ZTE is the first launch a Firefox OS smartphone, however global manufacturers Huawei, LG, Alcatel One Touch, and Sony will join the party later this year.
After running some low-key but extremely successful test launches with the Spanish startup Geeksphone, Telefonica is now launching the ZTE Open Firefox phone nation-wide through their Movistar stores in Spain.
Luis Miguel Gilpérez, CEO of Telefónica España says that “smartphones need to be more open and that the web is the platform for making this possible. Consumers should not be locked to any one system but have the choice to consume the content they want and the flexibility to be able to take it with them when they change devices. This first open web device marks a significant milestone in making this possible. This is just the beginning as we plan to bring a wide range of Firefox OS devices to our customers.”
Partnering with one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, especially in emerging markets that remain largely untapped to smartphone adoption, could catapult Mozilla Firefox into the top tier of global OS market share. Telefonica has already announced plans to roll-out the ZTE Open to the Colombian and Venezuelan markets in the coming weeks and as new low-cost devices are added to the Firefox lineup, millions of new smartphones users will pour into he market.
It’s important to note that Mozilla is not competing toe-to-toe with Google and Apple by trying to lure away developers to create apps to compete with Android and iOS. We have all seen how well that worked out for the Windows phone and Blackberry OS. No, Mozilla is changing the game by taking applications completely out of the conversation. While HTML5 has had it’s false starts in recent years, Facebook I’m looking at you, the influx of a couple hundred million new smartphone users could provided the necessary incentive for rock star developers to reconsider the massive opportunity for native web applications in the next 5 years.
For more information, you can download the official press release here