Microsoft, Mozilla, the Tizen Association and others are moving to lower-cost hardware in an effort to gain share in emerging markets. However, Google's Android One software and hardware reference design program could undercut those efforts by enhancing the Android experience on cheap devices in the developing world.
One of the major themes I'm hearing here at the Mobile World Congress trade show is that handset makers across the board are focusing on affordable smartphones.
Mozilla is partnering with Shanghai-based Spreadtrum to help drive down the costs of chipsets for smartphones and make the $25 price point a reality. In addition, the company announced that its Firefox OS will expand to 12 more markets (on top of the existing 15 markets). Those new markets initially include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Argentina and Ecuador.
Sprint is still backing the Tizen Association and just joined as a partner member, contrary to a recent report that the carrier had dropped its support for the fledgling operating system.
Mozilla joined with a wide range of partners to ensure that devices running the Firefox OS comply with open web standards, which sit at the heart of both Mozilla and the operating system.
Mozilla does not have current plans to bring commercial Firefox OS smartphones to the U.S. market, according to a senior Mozilla executive.
ZTE is intensely interested in moving into the emerging device category of wearable computing, according to a senior ZTE executive.
ZTE's Firefox-based Open smartphone has sold out in terms of sales to U.S. and U.K. consumers via eBay, but the sales volumes were relatively paltry and the platform faces challenges in gaining traction.
The first two phones running Mozilla's Firefox OS have just gone on sale, but already Mozilla is making its intentions plain: it wants to go after the mass market with the platform and believes it can do a better job than Google's Android at doing so. In part, that's because Mozilla thinks Android's latest software is too heavy for low-end hardware to run.
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., better known as Foxconn, will triple the number of workers it is recruiting for its program to develop devices running Mozilla's Firefox OS to up to 3,000, according to a report from the Taipei Times.