Brand awareness for Firefox
Daniel Gleeson, analyst on Mobile at IHS Screen Digest, explained: “In
emerging markets, Firefox OS can play a large part in driving smartphone
adoption. With the first device anticipated to retail at less than
US$100, the devices will be cheaper than the lower-end Android phones, Samsung’s Bada platform
even high-end featurephones such as Nokia’s Asha 311.”
specifically, IHS estimate that a saving of between $40 to $60 is
possible based on a lower processor power and less memory. If the
handset leverages cloud storage then further saving are possible, but
for handsets headed for markets where 3G is underdeveloped this may not
be a viable option.
Mozilla, which has been working with
Telefonica, demonstrated the platform and its key features in February
at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.
platform combines HTML5 with some of the core elements of Linux
technology. IHS’ Gleeson observed, “Running just HTML5 means that
Mozilla can cut out a lot of middleware from the OS; making the whole
package lighter on the CPU and on the memory.”
this month, reported that “Telefonica has said the [Firefox5-based]
phone price will be significantly cheaper than the low-end Android
models, meaning Firefox phones can be priced at levels around $50
excluding operator subsidies.” This compares with a price of around $200
for a typical smartphone.
Brand awareness for Firefox
Price points aside, some markets like Europe may have stronger brand awareness for Firefox, according to Gleeson. He noted, “Android is already established in Europe, but smartphone penetration is only 42% in Western Europe.” He believes “there is room for cheap, easy to use smartphones for the prepay market in particular where the platform loyalty to Android will not be as strong. Firefox is the most widely used desktop browser in many European countries such as France, Germany and Poland (according to StatCounter), so there is also strong brand awareness to build on.”
And then, of course, there is Brazil, first market Mozilla picked to roll out Firefox OS-based phones in cooperation with Telefonica.
Smartphones powered by the new Firefox OS will be manufactured by China’s TCL Communication Technology, under its Alcatel One Touch nameplate, and by China's ZTE. Gleeson sees a larger opportunity in Brazil because Brazil has a much lower penetration of smartphones (less than 15%).
Although Spreadtrum’s chip wasn’t designed into either TCL or ZTE’s first Firefox OS phones (they used Qualcomm’s snapdragon processors), Spreadtrum has swiftly announced that it, too, is ready to power Mozilla’s HTML5-based phones. At the Mobile Asia Congress 2012 last month, Spreadtrum built its own reference design using a 1GHz SC8810 smartphone chip. The model running Mozilla's Firefox OS was demonstrated at Mozilla’s booth, according to the company.
One lingering issue with Firefox OS, however, is whether Mozilla can build from scratch an attractive enough ecosystem for Firefox’s OS platform -- developer tools, applications, and development community included. That’s something Palm failed to do with its WebOS, even before it was bought by Hewlett Packard.
The key difference between Firefox OS and WebOS, Gleeson points out, is that Firefox OS is made open and free for any OEM to use right out of the box. WebOS was restricted to Palm, then HP. There was also a change of strategy within HP which provided the final nail in the coffin and the company stopped pushing mobile in any meaningful form. On the other hand, Mozilla is far more likely to be involved for the long-term., he noted.
Many market analysts explain that the new Firefox platform could overcome the problem by tapping into a community of 3 to 5 million web developers. Most of the apps are already created on HTML5, the preferred standard for creating mobile browser content.
Gleeson, too, agrees. “Firefox OS is very good for developers. It is HTML5 based, so developers do not need to build native versions of their apps to work on the OS; any web-app just works out of the box on the platform. It will also mean that the OS will have plenty of apps available from day one.”
According to Gleeson, “Millions of people, particularly in emerging markets, will be relying on their phones as their primary method of internet access. For Mozilla to remain relevant in the future of internet standards creation, it is vital that it has a significant mobile presence.”
For the same reason, entry-level smartphones will be vital for a new breed of handset vendors looking to gain a market share. The only remaining question, then, is how long incumbent mobile phone vendors could keep ignoring this entry-level category.
-MediaTek to bring premier smartphone features to $150 - $200 handsets
-How Leo Li Led Spreadtrum's Turnaround