Firefox OS launches in the US in 2014, but users are in for rough times ahead

After losing significant marketshare in the world of browsers, Mozilla has begun shifting gears to focus on competing in the mobile space. Webkit-based browsers are dominant on the desktop, but it’s even worse for Mozilla in the mobile space as it stands now. This year, phones running the new Firefox OS will launch in numerous different countries in Europe and Latin America, and they’ll hit the United States in 2014. Will this be enough to keep Mozilla relevant?

Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela will be among the first countries to see phones running Firefox OS. Poland will see Alcatel’s One Touch Fire this summer on Deutsche Telekom, and more eastern European countries will soon follow. Spanish telecom Telefónica will be rolling out Firefox OS phones in both Europe and the Americas in 2014. In the US, Sprint has shown interest in the platform, but no specific announcements have been made yet. According to PC Mag, Sprint didn’t even bother to show up to the Firefox OS press event at the Mobile World Congress. Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla, came out and said that the US likely won’t see phones running Firefox OS until 2014. Traditional markets are highly saturated, so Mozilla is grabbing some low-hanging fruit in oft-overlooked regions before moving up to the big leagues.

Firefox Phone

In the early days of Android, much ado was made about how open the platform was. Carriers shipped highly customized versions of Android on phones, and most of it was complete and total garbage. The user interface on any two Android phones was vastly different. It essentially allowed carriers complete control over the phone, and that caused substantial frustration for users. Since then, Google has smartened up, and started taking cues from the way Apple handles smartphones. Android is now much more standardized, less fragmented in terms of UI, and more focused around the direct connection between Google and users. This is a huge benefit for Android as a smartphone platform, but it’s killing what made carriers flock to it in the first place. Enter Firefox OS.

Mozilla is using very similar talking points that Google used when Android was launching: Open, customizable, free of the Man! Except that carriers will be able to bend Firefox OS to their will. Even worse, it appears that OS updates will be handled by the carriers instead of Mozilla itself. While Mozilla talks a good game about its security chops, carrier-pushed updates will eventually lead to heartbreak. It’s only a matter of time before the first major security issue pops up, and at least one carrier doesn’t bother pushing out an update. It seems like Mozilla didn’t learn much from pitfalls that Android ran into, and that is cause for worry. With the carriers calling the shots, users are in for some rough times ahead with Firefox OS.


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