In the smartphone space, while iOS and Android are still fiercely fighting against each other, Firefox just joined the battlefield. Mozilla, the company that is famous for its internet browser, Firefox, announced that they'll launch their own mobile operating system, Firefox OS in about a year's time.
In brief, Firefox OS will be an open source system, which is the core spirit of Mozilla. However, unlike Google's Android, Firefox OS is based on HTML5 web platform. It will be backed by hundreds of thousands applications out there on the web. Firefox OS will be highly customizable and also make smartphone even more affordable. Many manufacturers have shown their interests in this newborn system, such as ZTE, Alcatel and even Sony. In the coming year, we'll probably see more Firefox powered smartphones in the news.
It is great that more competitions are seen in the mobile space. Firefox OS as the second open source smartphone operating system will definitely appeal to many web developers and hardcore gadget fans. By producing more affordable smartphones, Firefox may as well find its market in the developing countries and in the lower end of the phone market. However, before making a conclusion that Firefox will make its way to a successful mobile operating system, I have a few concerns that I believe Mozilla would like to address as well.
First, since Firefox OS is based on web standard which is free of any rules and restrictions, the security of the system seems to be a reasonable concern. Devices with Firefox OS are likely to be more vulnerable to malware, virus or hacking compared to other operating systems that have tighter control over their accessibility. This weak point will apparently drive away a lot of demand. After all, people are still willing to pay a little extra to get a safer device.
Second, the user experience of HTML5 is very much questionable. You may notice that many websites or service providers rather develop a new app for iOS or Android than make a HTML5 version of their webpages. It is because that many times HTML5 is simply not good enough to deliver the best experience for its users. HTML language was created in 1990 and even the fifth version, HTML5 was started 5 years ago. Web applications may not be fully optimised for mobile devices and therefore it's difficult for Firefox OS to compete with Android and iOS in the higher end market in terms of performance.
Lastly, as Google is already suffering from platform fragmentation. Firefox OS, which is highly customizable, is very likely to be the next victim. Different manufacturers may have their own interpretation and market positioning for their products so as to differentiate themselves from the others. So it is very possible that Firefox OS will end up with many versions of its system and not be able to deliver a consistent experience across devices.
The question that whether Firefox will be a strong competitor for Apple and Google still relies much on how Mozilla addresses the above mentioned issues. However, it definitely will somewhat inspire the current market players to work even harder on their systems, to keep their own market share intact.