Firefox smart phones: One platform too many?

Mozilla announced on Monday the first two smart phones running on the Firefox operating system, in partnership with Deutsche Telecom in Germany and Telfonica in Spain.
The Alcatel One Touch Fire and ZTE Open are available already in Spain, and a bargain price of 69 euros (about $90), including 30 euros (about $40) in credit for prepaid users. The OS was first announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year.
The phones have the smart phone table stakes — calling, messaging, e-mail and a camera — along with native Facebook, Twitter and mapping apps, as well as, to no one’s surprise, a Firefox browser.
As PC World notes, neither phone is a powerhouse — there’s no high-definition screen abd both are limited to 512 MB of RAM, expandable via MicroSD card — but at the price point, there are sure to be plenty of takers. The OS was built on HTML 5, which, Mozilla hopes, will make it easier for developers to create apps.
That is, of course, the issue with introducing a new smart phone operating system: apps. As both Microsoft with its Windows 8 phones, and Research in Motion with its revamped BlackBerry line based on BB10, are finding, the overwhelming volume of apps on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS platforms is a barrier to traction in the market. Symbian has already fallen by the wayside. Can the market support another mobile OS?
It might be attractive as an entry-level device, with a feature phone price tag and basic social and mobile functionality. It might gain some market share in Europe — after all, Symbian was never a player in North America, but it dominated in Europe for many years.
But it’s difficult to picture another OS making inroads in North America, despite Firefox’s brand recognition. Notably, Mozilla didn’t announce plans for other markets, saying only that “individual partners will announce specifics about launches in each market soon.”
For more specs and a video demo, see this story from My Broadband.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.

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