Our first encounter with Firefox OS was back at the Mobile World Congress in February, at which the company’s then-CEO, Gary Kovacs, said that it intended to launch handsets featuring the mobile operating system in the U.S. on Sprint in 2014. Since then, however, it seems that Mozilla’s plans have changed.
CNET reports that Mozilla executive chairperson, Mitchell Baker, revealed this week that “currently, there are no plans to launch in the U.S.” She did add, however, that Firefox OS developer handsets would be sold in the United States; the ZTE Open – the launch device for the OS – is already sold on eBay, and is available to American buyers for just under $80.
Baker later told CNET that Mozilla’s plans regarding a U.S. launch apparently remained unchanged from what Kovacs had outlined at MWC, although that seems slightly at odds with her own statement. Andreas Gal, Mozilla's vice president of mobile, said that the company is “actively exploring” partnerships with carriers and manufacturers for the U.S. market.
Baker also emphasised that Mozilla’s approach in developing Firefox OS focuses heavily on handset cost, which will make devices more appealing in price-sensitive emerging markets: “How many cents you can shave off the bottom of the phone is the driving factor,” she explained.
She also underlined the web-focused philosophy behind Firefox OS, particularly as the world moves towards the ‘internet of things’ – a term used to describe interconnectivity of objects that have so far existed in a non-connected state, such as a shelf or a carton of milk. Connecting these objects may revolutionise simple everyday tasks, such as stock-keeping in businesses, or shopping for groceries. But this will also generate huge amounts of information to be shared and stored, fuelling the growth of 'big data'.
Baker believes that these developments will require a shift beyond the conventions of mobile devices that we know today. Mobile, she asserts, currently "means a particular operating system, an app model, it means essentially Apple and Google. But if you think of [smartphones] as computers, you get a sense of their potential... We want an experience that’s seamlessly interoperable with the data."