I’m just back from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where Mozilla announced partnerships with 18 operators and 4 device manufacturers, who will launch devices to become available in 2013 in several countries around the world, with a focus on emerging markets. Combined with Mozilla’s massive and gorgeous booth, Mozilla’s announcements made an quite an impact on the show. There were hundreds of press briefings, and probably more than two thousand articles published about Firefox OS. At the same time, in the midst of the biggest event in the world of mobile, Mozilla stayed true to its values.
Innovation with Open Web standards
Mozilla is introducing Firefox OS. Many visitors to the booth asked if Mozilla could be successful in building a third mobile ecosystem to compete with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. But this is not Mozilla’s perspective: We’re building a mobile Web ecosystem, with applications that can run on several mobile operating systems, thanks to HTML5 being implemented on most platform. For this, we’ve been creating new Web APIs, APIs that enable Web applications to do as much as native applications. For example, with these new Web APIs, Web pages can access mobile phone features such the GPS, the accelerometer, etc.
Another standards-based innovation presented at MWC was WebRTC, an initiative that enables audio, video and data (chat) communications between two HTML5 endpoints. The WebRTC demo was extremely popular amongst operators.
Bringing the Web to the masses
Because Firefox OS is highly optimized, it can run on inexpensive hardware that will be affordable to feature phone users who want to upgrade to a smartphone experience. As Gary Kovacs, Mozilla’s CEO, puts it, “we want to bring the next 2 billion users online.”
Mozilla would not exist without participation of volunteers in every aspects of Mozilla’s work. On the show floor in Barcelona, paid staff and volunteers participated inn in doing demos and talking to attendees and members of the press.
Open Source & not-for-profit
Mozillians have been doing things the Open Source way for so long, we sometimes forget how surprising it can be for commercial partners. I can’t count the number of times booth visitors were surprised to learn that we are a not-for-profit organization whose role is to make the Web open and accessible for all, or to hear that Firefox OS is developed in the open and its source code can be downloaded for free on the Internet.
What this means for developers and users
Mozillians (volunteers and paid staff) work tirelessly to provide a more level playing field to developers and end users. It’s at the heart of our mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web. Here’s how developers and users will benefit:
- Developers will be able to leverage their HTML5/JS/CSS knowledge to write mobile Web apps that run on Firefox OS. They can then optimize this code to reach other mobile platforms. Apps can be offered on the Firefox Marketplace. They can also be made available directly to consumers from the developer’s website or from other marketplaces as they open. Firefox Marketplace will be one distribution choice among many.
- Users will enjoy an affordable smartphone experience with the ability to use the HTML5 applications they have bought on all the devices they own, provided they use a digital receipt. Firefox OS users will also be able to enjoy the very innovative “dynamic app search” that offers direct access to apps based on a keyword search.
Interested by Firefox OS and Mozilla’s vision of mobile?
If Mozilla’s approach and goals are interesting to you, if you want to be part of the upcoming metamorphosis of the mobile industry, there are two ways you can help: