Firefox OS to set sail in 2013, but will it sink?

It was two years ago when we first learned that Mozilla was working on a project called Boot to Gecko or B2G. Mozilla had announced that it planned to work on an open source OS that would allow web developers to build powerful applications with HTML5. Last year, we learned the project would officially be called “Firefox OS” and would target low end devices in emerging countries, but will anyone really want to jump onboard Mozilla’s ship and set sail?

Last month, Chinese manufacturer Alcatel showed off the One Touch Fire smartphone at Mozilla’s Mobile Web Conference. The One Touch is a low end phone with a 3MP camera, 256MB of RAM, 512MB of storage, a 3.5-inch screen, and a 1GHz single core processor. These specs are in line with what we expect to see in future devices running Firefox OS; the goal is to keep the price low and the phone available to all.

The question is, will anyone actually be interested in purchasing a Firefox OS smartphone? Even if the devices are launched with low or free pricing in emerging countries, it is difficult to see why anyone would choose Firefox OS over a more established OS like Android or Windows Phone. At this point, a Nokia Lumia 900, Sony Xperia ion, HTC One VX and other similar phones can be picked up for almost nothing on most carriers.

Firefox OS is also an “online” based HTML5 platform, which means that the phone (like Google’s Chrome OS) is designed to be primarily used while connected to the internet. Most applications can be downloaded to the phone’s memory for later offline use, but with such a low amount of internal storage, you are going to want to pick up an SD card to expand it.

If Mozilla’s new OS is targeted at low end markets then why design a web based phone? If you were to pick up a NOKIA Lumia 900 it would be cheaper, faster, and include more storage than picking up the One Touch Fire and having to buy an SD card for it. In addition, a phone that is designed to be online is going to need a pricy data connection plan, something that a low end phone user might not want to shell out for.

If you are going to pick up a free phone with a data plan, your best bet is to pick up the last generation Motorola Droid, Samsung Galaxy, or Nokia Lumia. If you are going to pick up a free phone with no data plan, any old feature phone should do, so once again – why would anyone pick up a phone with Firefox OS, and do we really need yet another mobile platform in the market space?

What is your take on Firefox OS – who do you think would pick up one of these new phones from Mozilla?

[Mozilla | The Verge]
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Michael Archambault

Michael Archambault was an associate editor at Pocketables. He is a coder, a thinker, and a dreamer who lives on the "Microsoft side of life." His current gadget arsenal includes a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with Windows 8, Nokia Lumia 900 with Windows Phone 7.8 OS, and a Microsoft Surface RT.