Can Firefox OS Break the Android and iOS domination?

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 7, 2012
Updated • Nov 30, 2012

The US smartphone market has seen huge changes in the past six years. Back in 2005, the major players were Palm, RIM, Symbian and Microsoft. Symbian, Palm and Microsoft lost market share in the following six years, from nearly 3/4 of the market to less than 10% combined. Only RIM managed to maintain a two-digit market share, but even its market share has been falling drastically in the past year.

Two new players emerged in that time that managed to rise in market share in record time. Apple's iOS rose to 30% market share in five year's time, while Google's Android operating system managed to top that by rising to a market share of almost 50% in four years.

The mobile market in the US appears to be going through a consolidation phase after which Google and Apple will emerge as the dominant players. Microsoft? The company is having a hard time in the market, and while I personally would not say it is game over for Windows Phone yet, I would not be too optimistic for a change in the next few years.

And RIM? Revenue is falling, new phones postponed to 2013, and many tech sites are already projecting that the company will become a non-significant player in the coming years.

And then there is Mozilla with Firefox OS, which formerly was known as Boot2Gecko. The idea behind Firefox OS is very similar to what Android started with: An open free platform that is powered by HTML5 technologies that make it easier for developers and companies to develop and distribute contents.

First partners have been announced by Mozilla recently, with the first devices expected to launch in Brazil in 2013 by Telefonica. A launch in an emerging market like Brazil highlights one of the strengths of Mozilla's platform. Development of apps and contents is affordable, which in turn leads to lower costs and device prices.

Mozilla's other ace is the Firefox desktop browser, and possible integration of the desktop version with the phone, similar how Google is handling its platform.

Success depends largely on the first devices that are put out and how they fare against established competition. Can Firefox OS break Google's and Apple's domination in the mobile market? It is likely that Firefox OS will start gaining market share in emerging markets first, which is giving Mozilla some time and experience, that it can use to improve the platform and make it more attractive to an audience that is currently fixated on iPhones and Android devices.

In the beginning, Firefox OS will compete with Nokia's Symbian system in emerging markets, another popular operating system for lower-priced phones.

What's your take on the smartphone market in the coming years? Will Mozilla get some traction with Firefox OS, or are we going to see iOS and Android devices rise to absolute power? (great article on the topic at Seeking Alpha, thanks Jojo)


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  1. Fawad Mirzad said on September 9, 2012 at 3:37 am

    I believe HTML5 won’t pass if it be the only option for developers. Google is much better in web and web applications than mozilla but Google could not give good apps to its chromebooks.
    HTML five applications are better in security but can not give half of productivity and performance that a native application do. Nowadays android developers are working with lots of freedom but can they do it with HTML5 ? not at all.
    HTML5 applications works best with faster and hardly ever disconnected connections which can not be found on most of emerging markets.
    people are mostly with their smartphones and anyone is happy to save on resturant bills and purchase a phone that facilitates majority of their daily work.
    So i can say that Firefox OS based devices will be the next chromebooks(world’s most hard to sell product).

  2. Jo blo said on July 9, 2012 at 2:09 am

    If they want to emerge as a shining star they will have to put some high tech hardware out there cheap that means it will cost them for a while untill the market is.caught up in the all conquering firefox os that is the true test my friends

  3. Jeremy Collake said on July 8, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Good luck. That’s about all that can be said. The problem? Google and Apple have a heck of a lot more clout than Mozilla. I mean, like a freaking Elephant vs an Ant. That said, it might show up on low-end devices and, if competitive, make for a good alternative.

    1. Roman ShaRP said on July 8, 2012 at 11:05 am

      > Google and Apple have a heck of a lot more clout than Mozilla.

      That could be not the main issue: now Firefox browser has pretty good market share. Coogle is competing, Apple and MS can’t beat Firefox with their browsers.

  4. Reon said on July 8, 2012 at 4:16 am

    I think Firefox would not able to compete with android.
    Even windows phone which powered by technology from Microsoft though has not been able to defeat the android.
    Android which backed by Google as king of the internet will certainly continue to be developed to exist and beat the other platform.

    1. Roman ShaRP said on July 8, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Reon, MS technology can be crippled, slow and stubborn. Many times I heard from web-developers about what the hell is to develop and support sites for IE. And that’s main MS technology.

      The same is with Windows Phone. I saw development team developing the same app for the range of platforms – Windows Phone, iOS, Android… And the worst as for functionality and performance was Windows Phone app – because Windows Phone is inferior to iOS and Android on performance and developers wasting more time combating its quirks than developing functionality.

      Later they developed website for the same company. Site was heavily script-based. Chrome showed fastest loading time, Firefox next, considerably slow, and the worst loading the same site was IE.

      Alas, this is about Win 8 and Metro too – you wasting more time combating quirks than developing, and the same app for Win 8 / Metro could be worse than for Android or iOS.

  5. Roman ShaRP said on July 7, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    I’m working in mobile development industry since 2008, so I saw fall of old OSes and rise of the new.

    Teams I worked in developed for different versions of Windows Mobile, Symbian, WinPhone, iOS, Android 2.x and 3.x, Blackberry Playbook.

    So… I don’t think that Firefox OS can break Android and iOS domination.

    – mobile device are still resource-poor, and browsers with browser-based apps these days demand too much and spend recklessly
    – HTML5 development doesn’t give much freedom and possibilities to developers

    I think that Android and iOS will beat FFOS on apps and functionality.

    I use my phone for calls, messaging, apps, reading, games, music listening. Sometimes browsing, but wi-fi only, mobile internet is too expensive in my country. What FFOS can offer to me?

    More apps? No.
    Better apps? No.
    Better offline work? I doubt.
    How about many apps for offline typing, reading, playing, music listening and video watching?

    If there won’t be more or better functionality – why I need FFOS?

  6. marius said on July 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Oh common,this with memory usage is old,have you used the new Firefox,compare the memory with Chrome,then talk about memory usage!

  7. Max said on July 7, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I don’t think so. You don’t improvise designing an OS, especially if you can’t even properly manage memory usage of a simple browser.

    I also think they’re too late on this market; just like Windows and their Metro OS.

  8. n said on July 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Definitely not. Focusing on cheap low-spec hardware can only worsen that.

    A primarly web-connected mobile OS is the road open to all sorts of abuse from ISPs eager to nickel and dime *access* to the web.
    Unless these ISPs pledge not to (like with wallet-crippling bandwidth limitations), it would be stupid to believe they’re on this for supposed altruist reasons.

    Wether on iOS or android, native apps running locally provide some security.

  9. ilev said on July 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I don’t think Firefox OS Break the Android and iOS domination, but I am sure it will take 3rd place passing Microsoft Windows Phone, RIM, BADA and Symbian.

  10. Matt said on July 7, 2012 at 6:30 am

    To reply to the article’s title, I sure hope so!

  11. fokka said on July 7, 2012 at 1:30 am

    firefox os would surely be my second choice after android, so i hope it will be competitive and gain as much traction as it needs to attract enough developers, so the apps-department won’t stay too limited for too long.

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