At the ongoing Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Mozilla officially announced its new mobile operating system, Firefox OS. The new mobile OS, aimed at first-time smartphone users in emerging markets, aims to “unlock the power of the Web” on mobile devices. It appears to have gained plenty of traction, too, especially among carriers from around the world. At the launch event, 18 carriers have already pledged support for the new platform – including Singapore telco Singtel, the only carrier in the region present in the list – with many more expected to join. Firefox OS was built on several Web standards, including HTML5, and as such most web apps will work on Firefox OS. Its shares the overriding Web principles of openness and the freedom to innovate. As such, Mozilla promises the Firefox OS will be a beautiful, clean, intuitive, personalized and easy-to-use experience for all users. As an emerging market platform, Firefox OS pairs the standard phone features of calls, messaging, camera and messaging with smartphone necessities such as social networking features, web browser, location-based services, and a built-in cost control feature. In addition, apps on Firefox OS are essentially web apps, where there are no native applications for the platform. However, like other smartphone platforms, it has an app store – called the Marketplace – but Mozilla has stated that in the spirit of Web openness, a developer does not need to submit their apps to the Marketplace for verification.
At launch, Firefox OS has built-in support for Facebook and Twitter, as well as downloadable apps in the Firefox Marketplace such as Accuweather, Cut the Rope, Disney Mobile Games, EA games, SoundCloud, and also Nokia’s HERE maps app. Also, Firefox OS offers a new contextual search, where a search for a keyword will not just yield web searches, but also apps related to the keyword itself. This feature was demoed during the presentation, when a search for “Skyfall” yielded results for apps such as IMDB and also Fandango, where users can review and purchase tickets for the movie respectively. It certainly is an innovative new way of search. Mozilla has announced that availability for Firefox OS will be released on a market-to-market basis, where emerging markets will naturally take precedence. The first wave of Firefox OS devices will be available to consumers in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela, with more markets to be announced later. The company has confirmed that plans are afoot to bring Firefox OS to the US sometime next year. In addition, Mozilla has also announced several OEM partnerships which will be making Firefox OS devices. As we have seen already, Spanish OEM Geeksphone has announced two developer devices for Firefox OS, and Alcatel has announced the One Touch Fire. ZTE has also announced the ZTE Open, which is the first consumer Firefox phone and sports a similar design to the Keon developer phone. Mozilla also announced that two other OEMs, LG and Huawei, will also be making their Firefox devices. Finally, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipsets will be powering all Firefox devices.