Apple. Google. Blackberry. Firefox?
Mozilla Foundation, the organization behind the Firefox web browser, has built a new mobile platform: Firefox OS. Mozilla is betting this new system will be the standard for app development in the future.
Today, most platform developers create apps natively as part of the operating system. Mozilla thinks those days are coming to an end, and they intend to lead the charge.
The first batch of test Firefox OS devices sold out quickly. Early adopters who didn’t get their hands on one can try the simulator as an add-on for the Firefox browser. It seems that initial developer interest is high. Taiwanese manufacturer, Foxconn, has even started developing a Firefox OS tablet.
But wireless companies are still apprehensive about bringing Firefox OS to the masses. Sprint is currently the only U.S. carrier showing interest, but there are 16 others in emerging markets like Europe and South America that could successfully fuel the launch.
One problem facing a web-based operating system is the constraints that wireless carriers have on data capacity. Since the OS is almost always connected to the web, it’ll require more data transmission than other smartphones and tablets. While some major wireless carriers offer “unlimited” data plans, data restrictions could have a huge impact on the viability of Firefox OS. Of course, offline access is possible, so this may not be a big barrier.
Web developer Clay Benson had this to add: “iOS is really the shining example of the best of the best when it comes to feeling native, but even with mobile Safari, a software developer who’s not well versed in the optimization of animations, transforms, and transitions will deliver a jerky, sub-par experience.”
Some experts say the Firefox OS concept harkens back to the early days of Android, when developers were excited by the seemingly endless possibilities of a new platform. But some, like Clay, remain cautious based on early experiences with the OS. Users could also prove timid, as many may not be willing to trade in a familiar OS for fledgling technology that may or may not take off.