Untitled Document

Firefox OS faces brutal road ahead

by Anees on 2013-08-18 at 12:15:51


 Mozilla may have figured out a way to get its shiny orange and blue Firefox phones into the hands of fans in the U.S. and U.K. But that doesn't mean that analysts are any less skeptical about its chances.

 

 

 Can a browser transform into a phone? Firefox maker Mozilla certainly hopes so, but skepticism among analysts has been the backdrop to Mozilla's claims of growing customer interest in its small, plasticky, and brightly colored Firefox phones.
 
Those phones have seen rapid expansion of availability in their first month on the market, from initial sales only in Spain, to now include Venezuela, Colombia, and soon eBay customers in the U.S. and the U.K. 
 

 The Firefox OS phones serve two purposes, according to Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. She said that the development of Firefox OS is about Mozilla "getting into the mobile space, and carriers being less dependent on Android" for low-cost phones.

 
The carrier-free ZTE Open phone will be sold, including shipping, for $79.99 in the U.S. and 59.99 pounds in the U.K. In the three other countries, the phones are tied to carriers -- so far, that's meant only Telefonica.
 
Christian Heilmann, Mozilla's principal developer evangelist, told CNET that the phones have been well-received so far. "Feedback is quite positive," he said, adding that most people are saying that they're using the Firefox phone as "either a beginner phone, or a smartphone that's replacing a feature phone."
 
And Li Gong, Mozilla's senior vice president for mobile devices and the company's president of Asia operations, said that "one Chinese guy in Spain wanted to buy 100 phones to take back to Hong Kong."
 
Mozilla is betting on attracting users based in part on the phone's low prices, comparable to those of a feature phone, while telling developers that building apps will be like building a Web site because the operating system embraces HTML5 and CSS3. 

 

 

"Writing a Firefox OS app is never a wasted effort. You can easily make a HTML5 app to iOS, but not the other way around," Heilmann noted. 
 Some other selling points for the phones include the ability for in-app purchases to be charged to the carrier, precluding the need for credit cards, and the phones come with features that remain important in developing markets, such as FM band radios built in.
 
Hanging success on those factors is not a sure thing, however.
 
Jan Dawson, the chief telecoms analyst at Ovum, said that Mozilla's inability to get a U.S. or U.K. carrier to offer the phone reflects the inherent weakness in the strategy.
 
"It's not clear to me really what Firefox OS offers that the mass-market consumer can't get from somewhere else, and for better from somewhere else," he added.
 
Milanesi agreed that carrier reliance could backfire for Mozilla. "I see them depending a lot on the carrier branding, marketing, and push. They're going to go as far as the carriers want them to go," she said. "I don't see them being able to create demand from high loyalty." 


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