New mobile OS: a breakthrough, or the Tower of Babel? Part 1 Firefox OS.

Sergei Terekhov

Written by Sergei Terekhov | Thursday, 13 March 2014

Honestly speaking, I’ve never thought that there will be something new on the mobile OS market. People have already got accustomed to holy wars between Apple and Android fans and idly observed Windows Phone’s attempts to win its market share ( Windows phone 8 subtotalsWindows Phone 8 to be or not to be? ). In a word, there were harmony, peace and love. But literally yesterday I’ve found in the Net news that some new mobile OS are ready to enter the market: Firefox OS, Ubuntu Phone and Tizen. Let’s consider them together and try to figure out what consequences this diversity may have for smart phone users and mobile software developers. Let’s start with Firefox OS.

Firefox OS is an open source system for smart phones and tablet PCs created by Mozilla (you surely know the foxy browser with a great appetite for your computer resources). The project Firefox OS collected all web technologies in order to create a complete mobile operating system based on JavaScript.

But as mobile developers say, Firefox OS is much more than only the idea of using modern web technologies such as never before. It should be a combination of many other Mozilla projects into a single ecosystem - Web as a mobile platform. 

Two main reasons in favour of Firefox OS are called by its developers. Mobile OS from Firefox is supposed to fill a market gap and provide an alternative to current mobile platforms, which are accused of being proprietary and restrictive.

It is anything but a secret that smart phones are often just crazy expensive, even in the countries with a high level of income. So, one has always to choose from possessing a high quality device costing like a little car – or saving money and accepting a slow modest phone. Firefox OS creators promise to solve this problem and to offer medium quality smart phones at prices of usual feature phones. Firefox OS should give users the possibility to get a smart phone experience on relatively cheap hardware that is congruous to a middle class Android device. 

The second reason is not less pretentious than the first one. Firefox OS claims to give a dare to the leaders of the mobile market – Apple and Google – and to radically change things. Now, mobile applications, closed platforms, proprietary application stores and very strict rules for developers negatively affect the mobile market and restrict users’ possibilities. All these limitations enforce people to choose a single one operating system and a device supporting it. At that time, Web has evolved and can work almost at any hardware in the same way. Firefox OS aims to use this ubiquity of web technologies to give users the opportunity to use the same application on any device possessing a browser. 

Mozilla expects that this development will lead to the creation of numerous online stores, where mobile application developers would offer their products directly to end users.

One more reason why mobile software developers may find Firefox OS interesting is that at the moment there is no operating system that can be so easily edited as Firefox OS (even not Android). Firefox OS is built on HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Possessing a basic knowledge of web development, you can entirely change the whole OS. 

So, Firefox OS is trying to transfer the freedom of the Internet in a mobile ecosystem, enabling everyone to create web applications as easily as they create a web page. That sounds great, doesn’t it? But I’m not sure whether the idea of Firefox OS reaches the set goals exactly. 

Mozilla seems not to acknowledge that guidelines, standards, and closeness just contribute to the success of a system. Such uniformity supports the viability of a mobile OS and protects (or at least, tries to protect) its users from negligent work and malware. Otherwise, each developer would try to grab the biggest piece of the pie and any compatibility would be out of the question. 

What do you think? Is such freedom as promised by Firefox OS really a breakthrough in the mobile world? Or may it easily come to a situation like in the Tower of Babel legend?

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