Smart takes part in big launch of Firefox OS in Barcelona

Wireless operator leader Smart Communications has committed to distribute mobile devices running Firefox OS, joining other global carriers in unveiling the mobile operating system at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Other operators that will distribute the first wave of Firefox devices are América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telefónica, Telenor, Telstra, TMN and VimpelCom.

Mozilla is working with manufacturers LG, TCL (Alcatel), and ZTE to build the first Firefox OS devices, with Huawei to follow later in the year — all powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processors.

Firefox OS smartphones are the world’s first open Web devices which are free from the rules and restrictions of existing proprietary platforms.

Firefox OS phones can run apps developed using HTML5 with the same flexibility as “native apps” on other platforms.

“Firefox OS brings the freedom and unbounded innovation of the open Web to mobile users everywhere,” said Gary Kovacs, chief executive officer of Mozilla.

“With the support of our vibrant community and dedicated partners, our goal is to level the playing field and usher in an explosion of content and services that will meet the diverse needs of the next two billion people online,” he added.

Smart chief wireless advisor Orlando Vea said Filipinos will be among the first to enjoy Firefox OS devices.

“We’re excited to see Firefox OS in the market because this will help bridge the digital divide. Its HTML5-based technology will make available affordable mobile devices with an open mobile ecosystem. This is aligned with our inclusive vision of putting mobile Internet in the hands of every customer,” he said.

Meanwhile, Smart executive vice president and wireless consumer division head Emmanuel Lorenzana said: “Firefox’s entry to the mobile phone market will bring customer experience to another level with lower cost barrier to ownership and more choices in terms of devices and mobile apps. This will also foster a healthier and more competitive developer community. We’re very keen to see a vibrant ecosystem based on HTML5 technology such as Firefox OS.”

Mozilla announced operator rollout plans for Firefox OS smartphones before the opening of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Smart executives led by Lorenzana are in Barcelona to support the event.

Tony Cripps, principal device analyst at Ovum, commented: “Firefox OS has achieved something that no device software platform has previously managed – translating an industry talking shop into a huge commitment from both carriers and hardware vendors at its commercial launch.

“Neither Android nor Symbian – the closest benchmarks in terms of broad industry sponsorship that we’ve previously seen – have rallied the level of support that Firefox OS has achieved so early in its development,” he said.

Cripps added: “That is a huge achievement for what, in fairness, has looked like an underdog among the plethora of alternative software platforms currently vying to power the so-called ‘third ecosystem’. Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10, and Tizen all look like better bets on the surface. As such, the Mozilla Foundation and its early sponsors, especially Telefonica, deserve considerable credit.

Cripps cited the platform’s perceived neutrality, but noted that the real acid test for Firefox OS and its long-term prospects is the quality of the software itself and the user and developer experiences that it fosters.

“However, it will be difficult to say whether it meets those needs sufficiently until we have seen retail devices. What is clear from the Firefox OS demonstration handsets that we have seen was that they are still some way from being market ready, being both slow and buggy.

“These issues must be overcome before Firefox OS devices find their way into consumers’ hands. Even low-cost smartphones – the primary target market for Firefox OS – can’t afford to hide behind price as a justification for poor performance,” he said.

“This is especially true at a time when upgraded feature phones, such as Nokia’s Asha Touch and Samsung’s Rex ranges, are gradually eating into the low-end Android market,” he said.