Barcelona, Spain — Mozilla, creator of the Firefox web browser, has enlisted a quartet of cellphone makers to support the launch later this year of the first smartphones based on Mozilla’s HTML5-based Firefox OS.
The OS is designed to bring down the cost of smartphones by focusing on widely used HTML5 web technology to develop phone features and apps, accelerate the development of low-cost mobile apps, and challenge the curated Apple and Google app stores, Mozilla said.
Because all Firefox phone features would be developed as an HTML5 application, the Firefox OS also makes it possible for downloadable apps to access the underlying capabilities of phones in the same way that only native applications previously did, Mozilla said.
Because the OS is built completely on open web standards, carriers and app developers will also be able to easily tailor the phone’s interface and develop localized services for a variety of consumer interests, Mozilla added.
Although Mozilla announced plans for a Firefox Marketplace to sell apps, the new web APIs that Mozilla offers to app developers will enable developers to distribute apps directly with no need for “gatekeepers,” Mozilla said.
Alcatel, LG and ZTE will be the first handset vendors to build Firefox OS devices, with Huawei to follow later in the year, Mozilla said. Their phones will be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processors.
Although Mozilla has touted the OS’s potential in developing countries, U.S. carrier Sprint has endorsed the Firefox OS, as has Latin American carrier America Movil, which operates TracFone Wireless, the largest prepaid MVNO in the U.S. “The company is committed to launch Firefox OS phones in Mexico and all possible markets during 2013,” said America Movil CMO Marco Quatorze.
All told, Mozilla announced that 17 carriers worldwide would offer Firefox OS phones. The first wave of Firefox OS devices will be available in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela.