Firefox OS-based ZTE Open sells out on eBay, but platform faces tough road

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.

ZTE Open Firefox Os

ZTE Open

The device went on sale in ZTE's eBay stores on Friday and by Monday it had sold out; the gadget went for $80 in the United States and £60 ($94) in the United Kingdom. however, according to ZDNet, the fewer than 1,000 customers in each market were able to purchase the device, as only 990 were sold in the U.K. while 985 units were sold in the U.S market.

The low-end ZTE Open supports 3G connectivity and touts a 480x320 3.5-inch display, a 3.15-megapixel rear camera and a 1 GHz Cortex-A5 processor. U.S. and U.K. carriers have not yet announced any support for Firefox OS devices, and the ZTE Open comes unlocked.

The ZTE Open and Alcatel's One Touch, which began regional rollouts last month, are the first commercially released smartphones running Firefox OS, developed by open-source software development initiative Mozilla. Firefox OS relies entirely on the Web to enable HTML5 applications with complete access to core device APIs: According to Mozilla, developers can create Firefox OS apps from existing websites by adding an app manifest--a JSON file that describes the app, including its name, its icons and a human-readable description.

ZTE specifically released the Open via Telefónica in Spain in July, and in Venezuela and Colombia in August. LG and Huawei have also pledge support for the platform. One of the key features of Firefox OS is that it has drawn support from global operators. Mozilla said 17 operators have so far committed to launching Firefox OS devices, including Sprint (NYSE:S), América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa's Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor, TMN and VimpelCom.

However, analysts think that the platform will be dependent on carrier support to drive adoption in the market. Although Firefox OS is primarily aimed at emerging markets, Ovum analyst Jan Dawson told CNET that Mozilla's inability to get a U.S. or U.K. carrier to offer the ZTE Open exposes some weaknesses in its strategy.

"It's not clear to me really what Firefox OS offers that the mass-market consumer can't get from somewhere else, and for better from somewhere else," he said.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said the platform gives carriers a low-cost option beyond  Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. However, she told CNET that Mozilla's reliance on carriers could actually hurt it. "I see them depending a lot on the carrier branding, marketing, and push. They're going to go as far as the carriers want them to go," she said. "I don't see them being able to create demand from high loyalty."

For more:
- see this ZDNet article
- see this Tom's Hardware post
- see this CNET article

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