Firefox OS smartphones launching in five countries in June, but Australians miss out

Mozilla chief executive Gary Kovacs has revealed it plans to launch smartphones running its Firefox OS in June this year, although Australians will miss out on their initial release.

During a speech at AllThingsD’s Dive into Mobile conference, Kovacs revealed smartphones running the platform will be initially launched in Venezuela, Poland, Brazil, Portugal and Spain during June of this year.

Mozilla expects that to expand to 11 countries by the end of 2013, with Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro and Serbia set to gain the smartphones running the platform later this year, while the US will receive smartphones next year.

Kovacs said the reason for the strategy was to build up an ecosystem in emerging markets with low-cost devices rather than competing head-to-head with Apple and Google.

“In Silicon Valley, we tend to see the world through high-end devices,” Kovacs said.

“But that’s not true in the rest of the world. So in the short term, we’re launching in emerging markets where Firefox is particularly strong.

“It didn’t make sense for us to launch a version-one device around the world.”

Firefox OS uses a mobile version of the Firefox web browser as a platform for running platform-independent web apps coded in HTML5, which have the same access to a smartphone’s underlying capabilities in the Firefox OS as native apps have under iOS and Android.

The idea is that apps will be written in web standard languages (including HTML5, CSS, and Java) and therefore be able to work on any device that supports Firefox.

As Mozilla chief technical officer Brendan Eich revealed in September last year, because everything including the phone dialler runs within Firefox, the platform works on much simpler devices than either Apple’s iOS or Google Android, making it a competitive option in developing markets.

In March, Mozilla released a video showing off its first two Firefox OS smartphones, built by ZTE and Alcatel, after ZTE and Alcatel showed off the new phones, dubbed the ZTE Open and the Alacatel One Touch Fire, at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

A number of industry giants, including Optus, Telstra, LG, Huawei and Sony, expressed support for the low-cost smartphone platform at the Mobile World Congress.

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