Firefox OS is very fast becoming a reality. What seemed like an offshoot experimental project last year is now on its way to debuting on phones, supported by carriers and phone makers, in half a year’s time.
Mobile operating systems are a dime a dozen these days. What’s more, traditional players haven’t been able to mount much of a fight against the big two, Android and iOS.
Microsoft, in a situation similar to its search engine, is pouring billions into Windows Phone for just a few percentage points market share. Blackberry is on its way out, WebOS is dead and so on and so forth.
Mozilla doesn’t have the resources or the experience of neither Microsoft, nor RIM, nor Palm, nor Nokia, nor Samsung. But maybe that’s a good thing.
And Firefox OS may be different enough to succeed. The one big thing that differentiates Firefox OS from everything out there is the reliance on standard or at least open web technologies.
This is a philosophical choice first and foremost, Mozilla is all about the open web. But it’s a highly practical one for a very simple reason. There are already millions of developers capable of creating applications to run on Firefox OS.
What’s more, there are already countless apps that will run on Firefox apps and will feel like “native” apps with only some small tweaks.
What’s more, Mozilla is only using APIs, which it’s developing as part of the Web API suite, that will be easily implemented into any browser. Meaning that any app that runs on Firefox OS will run on any browser, desktop or mobile, that implements Web API.
Nobody expects Firefox OS to be an overnight success. But the combination of easy development, huge flexibility and cheap hardware means that it has a very big chance of becoming very popular in developing countries, in Africa, in parts of Asia, in China, in India, in Brazil.
These are regions with billions of people, with billions of phone owners. All of which will eventually switch to a smartphone. And their first smartphone will very likely be a cheap one, the cheapest perhaps. And if their first smartphone is a Firefox OS-powered one it’s going to be hard to get them to switch.
Google is not sitting still and Android devices are cheaper and cheaper. But Mozilla has a big chance. And if it puts all of its resources into it, as it seems it’s doing, Firefox OS may very well become the third big player in the mobile market.