Published: 23 April, 2012
Mozilla will kick off its bid to offer its own, open source mobile platform in Brazil around the turn of the year. The browser maker has been developing the Boot to Gecko OS, which supports a fully web-based experience, and showed it off at February's Mobile World Congress. There, it also announced that Telefonica would be its major operator supporter, and the Spanish group has earmarked rapidly growing Brazil as the first market for B2G.
Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs said the two companies will start selling the devices by the end of this year or early in 2013. He did not reveal who would manufacture the handsets, but Pablo Larrieux, chief innovation officer Telefonica's Brazilian unit, Vivo, said they would be unlocked and would be priced in the same range as current featurephones.
This highlights the reason for Telefonica's interest in a new, fully web-oriented platform. It sees this as an easier way to deliver a full mobile experience to fairly humbly specified, and low cost, hardware. B2G, like other emerging cloud OSs, runs all apps in the browser, with only a stripped-down Linux engine underneath. By relying on streaming and hosted services, the need for expensive local storage and processing is reduced. Telefonica will be keen to accelerate the migration to new services and devices in Brazil, its largest market globally, but where only 9% of users currently have smartphones. Vivo is the second largest operator in the country with 90m subscribers.
For Mozilla, B2G is a strategy to increase its influence in the mobile web world, especially as its flagship Firefox browser has made little impact in its smartphone version. It will aim to push the browser-as-OS trend, reducing the power of Google and Android. In its original plan, Mozilla was going to use an Android derivative for its Linux engine but has since managed to work around the Google technology.
Mozilla and Telefonica will jointly launch the Open Web Devices platform, which will be based on web apps and HTML5 and will offer developers complete access to core device APIs. Capabilities including calling, messaging, browsing and gaming will be developed as HTML5 applications and executed via experiences based on the Firefox browser. Mozilla is now accepting developer submissions for its Mozilla Marketplace storefront, targeting a consumer launch later this year and supporting any HTML5-capable device.