Mozilla rebrands Boot to Gecko to Firefox Mobile OS. Looks more real with first vendors, new carriers

Mozilla Foundation had some news to share with us about its HTML5/JavaScript based Boot to Gecko mobile OS initiative. Most of them, pretty good – I’m starting to think the new OS may actually have a chance in the market. Pretty small chance for now – but better then a year ago, when I first thought the new OS announcement was some sort of prank.

From now own Boot to Gecko will be known as Firefox Mobile OS, and it gained some more carrier support along the way. In addition to Telefonica and T-Mobile, which were already part of Boot to Gecko, new operators joining Mozilla’s mobile venture are Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia and Telenor. Not the cream of the crop as far as the carrier groups go – but a welcome expansion anyway.

Mozilla also announced the first two mobile vendors who will be making Firefox Mobile OS devices. They are – ZTE and Alcatel (now known as TCL Communication Technology), but still using Alcatel One Touch brand. Again – nothing in the top-tier of mobile makers – but a welcome progress nonetheless.

And Foundation finally confirmed the market they are targeting with Firefox Mobile OS – entry-level smartphones. The first of which will launch in Brazil in early 2013, under Telefonica’s local Vivo brand, and will run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon CPU. Which Snapdragon is not clear yet, but my guess is – it will not be the latest S4. Way too expensive for the targeted price range. Snapdragon S3 or even older chip should do a job – Boot to Gecko was very snappy on a Galaxy S2 hardware demo unit earlier this year.

The only bit of bad news from today’s announcement is the early 2013 first smartphone release date. Which slipped from the end of 2012, Mozilla was targeting at the start of the year, thus missing an important Christmas season.

But it certainly is not a big slip. Especially when you compare it to the time other mobile operating systems took to ship. Boot to Gecko was announced less than a year ago. 18-20 months from zero to a commercial product on a brand new mobile OS – is an amazing development speed.

Which the Mozilla Foundation will have to continue, or even step up, if they want to break in to the low-end smartphone market Android is now busy conquering. But today Firefox Mobile OS chances look better than they were when it launched or even in February, when it was first demoed.

By leaving the high-end for the big guys to duke it out, and focusing on the very low-end where Android is just getting started – Mozilla’s OS may find its place under the sun, even with the middling carrier and vendor support it has today. Especially after Nokia has abandoned its low-end smartphone OS ambitions by killing Meltemi OS, thus opening an opportunity for new entrants in emerging markets to fill the void.

If you wonder how the new Firefox Mobile OS looks and works – here’s our hands-on demo from Mobile World Congress in February:

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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