The Firefox mobile operating system, rolled out by Mozilla in 2013, was intended as a lower-cost alternative aimed at mobile carriers in developing markets. However, Firefox OS-powered smartphones failed to have much of an impact on the market, leading Mozilla to announce this week that it will no longer offer such devices through carrier partners.
Over the two-plus years that Mozilla promoted the mobile OS, it announced more than 50 launches across 29 countries and partnered with 14 carriers, including Orange, Telefónica and Verizon. Telefónica, for instance, offered several Firefox OS-powered devices, including the ZTE Open II and the Alcatel OneTouch Fire C (pictured).
Critics, however, have noted that Mozilla was a latecomer to the mobile OS/device party, and that its execution was in some ways lacking. However, yesterday’s announcement — made at the Mozlando 2015 developer conference taking place this week in Orlando — does not mean that Firefox OS is completely dead: Mozilla said the operating system continues to offer potential for the smart-device ecosystem.
Not ‘Best User Experience Possible’
“Firefox OS proved the flexibility of the Web, scaling from low-end smartphones all the way up to HD TVs. However, we weren’t able to offer the best user experience possible and so we will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels,” according to a brief online post attributed to Mozilla’s senior vice president for connected devices Ari Jaaksi.
Until now, Mozilla appeared to have high hopes for Firefox OS-powered smartphones, even announcing several major launches in different markets over the past year. In May, for instance, Mozilla partner Orange began selling the Orange Klif in Senegal and Madagascar, and planned to expand availability across other parts of Africa.
Mozilla said such programs “deliver on the promise of putting the mobile Web within reach of millions more people, not previously addressed by mobile offers.” It described Firefox OS as “the first truly open mobile platform built entirely on Web technologies.”
Smart TV, IoT Potential
On Reddit’s Linux subreddit yesterday, user jringstad highlighted a number of Mozilla’s “most egregious flaws” in its Firefox OS smartphone initiative. The list of shortcomings included “no thoughts put into monetization,” poor communication about the benefits of an open/free platform and “no usable browser.”
Another Reddit user agreed. “It was a cool idea, but having too much layers of abstraction on less powerful devices sealed the fate of FxOS. Maybe one day, in the future, when the hardware is more powerful,” user markole noted.
“We are proud of the benefits Firefox OS added to the Web platform and will continue to experiment with the user experience across connected devices,” Jaaksi noted in the Mozilla blog post. “We will build everything we do as a genuine open source project, focused on user experience first and build tools to enable the ecosystem to grow.”
In May, for example, Mozilla announced the availability in Europe of the first Panasonic VIERA Smart TVs powered by Firefox OS, with worldwide availability to follow. In the spring, U.S.-based Monohm also showcased its Firefox OS-powered Runcible “personal electronic” device, an IoT-focused hybrid of a wearable and a mobile phone.