SAN JOSE, Calif. – The mobile world lost one platform and gained another this week as Mozilla rolled out its mobile operating system and Hewlett-Packard sold WebOS to LG Electronics, which will re-purpose it for its smart TVs.
Ironically, the shifts come at a time when mobile systems are increasingly consolidating around Android and Apple iOS. Blackberry and Microsoft continue to struggle to make their platforms viable top-tier candidates. Tizen, an open-source alternative from Intel and Samsung, is still a work in progress.
In that light it’s surprising what traction Mozilla revealed at Mobile World Congress this week. The browser maker previewed the first commercial build of its Firefox OS and the first wave of Firefox OS devices, generally targeting feature phones for developing markets.
Eighteen mobile-operator partners across nine launch markets said they will adopt the platform, using devices from Alcatel One Touch, LG and ZTE, with Huawei pledging to join the group in the future. All the devices use Qualcomm Snapdragon chips so far.
The operators include América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telefónica, Telenor, TMN and VimpelCom. The will sell devices in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela.
Mozilla also announced the Firefox Marketplace. It will include popular apps such as AccuWeather, Airbnb, Box, EA Games, Facebook, Nokia Here, MTV Brasil, Pulse News, SoundCloud, SporTV, Time Out and Twitter
“Neither Android nor Symbian--the closest benchmarks in terms of broad industry sponsorship that we’ve previously seen--have rallied the level of support that Firefox OS has achieved so early in its development,” said Tony Cripps, principal device analyst at market watcher Ovum, noting that the next milestone will be showing high-quality devices in retail markets.