Mozilla, the free software community best known for producing the Firefox web browser, is taking on the big guns in smartphone software.
The non-profit organisation has launched a new developer preview phone to showcase its new Firefox OS smartphone software, which has been designed to compete with the operating systems of Apple, Google and Microsoft.
Mozilla’s phones are being developed by Spanish firms Geeksphone along with multinational Telefonica.
It’s going to be very tough for Mozilla, which had revenues of $121m in 2011, to compete on any sort of playing field, level or not, with the big three having combined sales of more than $200bn that same year.
However difficult it may be though, Mozilla’s wish to take on the mobile market is clear as its share of the desktop market continues to fall.
In a statement about its latest move Mozilla, which launched in 1998, said: “Developers are critical to the web and to Mozilla’s mission to make the web accessible to everyone. Now we’re working on bringing the power of the web to mobile, through Firefox OS, along with all the power of open standards and an open community and, once again, we’d like to invite web developers to join us.”
The new platform is based around the HTML5 web programming language and it is being pushed as a way to offer software writers more “freedom” than alternatives.
Mozilla is, however, certainly dipping its toes into what are going to become very crowded waters. Other soon-to-be-released systems include Blackberry 10, Ubuntu, Tizen and Sailfish. Then there are those already occupying the pool – Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry 7 and Symbian, to name but a few.
The two new handsets from Mozilla have been codenamed Keon and Peak. Peak is the higher end device, with a 4.3-inch display, an eight-megapixel camera and powerful Snapdragon S4 processor while Keon comes in at the more basic end of the market, with a 3.5-inch screen, three-megapixel camera and Snapdragon S1 processor.
No details on price have been given yet, although Mozilla has revealed the handsets will go on sale next month. They are expected to be “cheaper than many alternatives” and to be targeted at emerging markets.
But analysts have already questioned whether the new operating system will have what it takes to survive in a busy market.
Nick Dillon, a senior analyst at consultants Ovum, said: “What Firefox is trying to do is make the web the app store and bring the openness of the web to phones. But, the question is, what does this offer over a cheap Android phone to a consumer looking to buy a low-end handset?”
If, however, Mozilla manages to beat the odds to be successful, Firefox OS should help drive the creation of HTML5 apps which should work on any smartphone. It should be attractive to developers who could write a single programme in the knowledge it would then work across a range of platforms.