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Mozilla and Canonical vye for carrier favors

No Nexus-style own-branded smartphone planned for Firefox, as Canonical forms operator steering group for mobile Ubuntu


Published: 24 June, 2013

READ MORE: Applications (Browser) | OS | Linux

Mozilla has no plans to launch own-branded smartphones to showcase its upcoming Firefox Mobile OS. Li Gong, the organization's SVP of mobile devices, said it would not take the approach of Google Nexus, but instead would rely on carrier relationships.

The operating system will make its debut on Telefonica branded handsets in several of the Spanish giant's territories later this year, and the executive, in an interview with DigiTimes, also said reference designs - which could be easily adapted by OEMs and ODMs - could also be an important route to market. Both strategies can help to extend the reach of a platform without high levels of investment in R&D and branding by Mozilla itself.

As well as the Telefonica gadgets, there will also be two low end models over the coming weeks, the ZTE Open and the Alcatel OnTouch Fire, and other OEMs, such as LG, are also interested.

Mozilla has been very successful in signing up operators to support Firefox Mobile, though it is not clear how many will launch commercial products in the near future and how many are just keeping a watching brief on a promising new system which could help dilute the power of Android and iOS.

Canonical, which develops the Ubuntu Linux flavor, is learning from its open source peer and is drumming up operator support with a new advisory group of seven large carriers, all of which are signalling their interest in its upcoming Ubuntu Touch mobile implementation of its OS. Its partners include Deutsche Telekom, UK leader EE and the three Korean cellcos, but not the big four US players. Portugal Telecom and Telecom Italia have also signed up, as has "the leading Spanish international carrier" - presumably Telefonica, perhaps shy about revealing itself given its aggressive support for Firefox Mobile.

The open source body aims to launch devices with mobile Ubuntu early next year, though its sights are set well beyond the cellular space and its vision is to extend its platform to a fully unified OS and user experience spanning all screens - TV, PC, tablet, mobile device, car and others.

The Carrier Advisory Group will receive advance notifications of Ubuntu's mobile developments and will be able to be launch partners for the commercial release of the mobile OS - none has firmly committed to this, but only CAG members will be able to be first wave launch operators.

Invitations to join the group are "extended to any national or multinational carrier" with an interest, Canonical said.

The CAG will be chaired by David Wood, previously a board member at the Open Mobile Alliance, and so well versed in the politics of mobile carriers and their standards. He said in a statement that the new group promises the chance to get in on the ground floor of a new OS.

"The mobile industry remains on the look-out for an independent platform that enables innovation and differentiation," he said. "The Carrier Advisory Group will have ample opportunity to influence the Ubuntu roadmap, and take full advantage of the potential in this emerging platform."

Topics on which the CAG expects to focus its discussions will include some of the hot potatoes of the day - OEM differentiation; developer ecosystems and portability of Android apps; HTML5 standards and performance; apps and content marketplaces; revenue share models; payment mechanism; and platform fragmentation.

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