Sony has become the latest smartphone manufacturer to jump aboard Mozilla’s low-end Firefox OS smartphone platform, with the electronics giant announcing its first handset using the platform will be released in 2014.
“Our engineers are now working with Firefox OS Mobile and HTML5, evolving technologies which show great potential. In addition, we continue to work with our operator partners, including Telefónica, on a development project with an ambition to bring a product to market in 2014,” says Sony Mobile Communications products business group chief executive Bob Ishida.
The company joins hardware makers ZTE and Alcatel, which both demonstrated their first Firefox OS smartphones at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, as well as Huawei and LG, which have recently announced they are developing phones based on the platform.
In Australia, both Optus and Telstra have endorsed the new platform.
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’s 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.
“We see an opportunity to serve users by converting them from feature phones to inexpensive smartphones. The action is in the emerging market, not going up against the top end of the market in the US, where Android is chasing Apple,” Eich said.
“In Brazil, Android phones are not cheap and they are running Android [version] 2 or 3, and that is not a good proposition. In a year the price will come down, but some of the apps will stop working.”
In Brazil, iOS has slipped from 3.2% a year ago to just 1.6% today, with Android on 60.7% (up from 28.9% a year ago), while Symbian continues to be used on 27.9% of smartphones (down from 44.6%).