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Mozilla to launch Firefox OS for Smartphones in early 2013

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Mozilla’s ‘Boot to Gecko’ project will be launched as a fully-fledged smartphone operating system next year to offer users an open alternative to proprietary and partially closed rivals, the non-profit organisation has announced.

The announcement is not a huge surprise as B2G has rumbled along for a year since inception, but Mozilla has offered an unexpected level of commercial detail of what will be known as the Firefox OS.

Leaning heavily of HTML5, the Firefox OS will be planted firmly in the lower end of the price spectrum, the better to offer an accessible platform. That won’t mean low-end hardware, however, with Qualcomm’s large diverse family of Snapdragon processors pencilled to power the first smartphones.

The Firefox OS will also be as global as possible as the list of networks signing up to back the software suggests; Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor were all mentioned in the official announcement.

Handsets will be made by ZTE and TCL Communication Technology (using Alcatel’s brand); the OS will make its debut in “early” 2013 from Telefónica’s Brazilian Vivo brand.

“Due to the optimisation of the platform for entry-level smartphones and the removal of unnecessary middleware layers, mobile operators will have the ability to offer richer experiences at a range of price points including at the low end of the smartphone price range, helping to drive adoption across developing markets, “said the launch announcement, confidently.

As promised, the underlying APIs are in the process of being submitted to W3C for standardisation. And this is where the whole B2G first saw the light of day; frustration at the lack of a truly open mobile platform for developers to get their teeth into.

“The introduction of the open mobile OS continues the Mozilla mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web for users and developers,” said Mozilla CEO, Gary Kovacs

“As billions of users are expected to come online for the first time in the coming years, it is important to deliver a compelling smartphone experience that anyone can use.”

“The large number of operators and manufacturers now supporting this effort will bring additional resources and diversity to our global offerings.”

Some will worry that 2013 is a tad late in the day to be building a new mobile OS but a clutch of networks clearly want an alternative to dancing on the head of the Apple/Google duopoly’s tightly-controlled pin. Networks would like to be seen not merely as the delivery mechanism but as part of the service itself and an open OS offers that potential.

If it can attract enough developers, the Firefox OS could be their saviour.

ZTE will be one of the first manufacturers to release a smartphone running Mozilla’s HTML5-based Firefox OS

ZTE has confirmed that it will release a handset running Mozilla’s completely open-source HTML5-based Firefox OS inside the first quarter of 2013.

ZTE executive vice president He Shiyou confirmed the news to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, indicating the company’s plans to have a handset running Firefox OS in the hands of customers before April 2013.

Firefox OS will the company’s third platform, joining Android and Windows phone. Shiyou also confirmed that ZTE would be releasing a Windows Phone 8-powered handset later on in the year, although exact details about its release date were not disclosed.

Know Your Mobile had a chat with Mozilla’s Brenden Eich and Andreas Gal at MWC 2012 about Firefox OS, then called Boot to Gecko, and what it meant for the mobile space at large. Gal was particularly critical of Google’s Android platform, alleging that it, like Apple’s iOS, is essentially a walled-garden.

There is no word on what kind of spec the Firefox OS-powered ZTE phone will feature, although it’s 99.9 per cent likely it will ship with a Qualcomm chipset. ZTE, Qualcomm, and TCL are Mozilla’s only confirmed Firefox OS partners at tme of writing. No doubt more will be confirmed soon.

During MWC 2012 we got a brief demo of Mozilla’s Firefox OS running on a Samsung Galaxy S2. The platform, which is based entirely on open web standards, did impress us though, so we’re looking forward to seeing more from Firefox OS as 2013 draws nearer.

Mozilla opens Firefox Marketplace, brings apps to Aurora on Android

The first Aurora release of Firefox Marketplace is available to early adopters and testers who are using Firefox for Android Aurora. This release gives developers a means to get feedback on their apps as the Marketplace grows and progresses. At Mozilla, we develop in the open and this initial release will help lead the way for future Marketplace Aurora, Beta and Firefox OS releases in 2013.

This release features a selection of showcase apps in the areas of games, productivity and news & media that users can browse, install and use. Among the first apps ready for testing are Distant Orbit, Jauntly, Soundcloud and Twitter.

It’s still early days for Firefox Marketplace Aurora – we’ll be adding payments, ratings, reviews and more soon- stay tuned.

Just last year, we started working to turn the Web into a viable apps development platform. We created the Firefox Marketplace to allow developers to build, distribute and monetize rich, immersive apps that use Web technologies like HTML, JavaScript and CSS. We’ve made amazing progress developing Web APIs across platforms as we work to unlock the power of the Web on mobile, just as we did on desktop.

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