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 (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android at doing so. In part, that's because Mozilla thinks Android's latest software is too heavy for low-end hardware to run.
Mozilla co-Founder and CTO Brendan Eich said the goal of Firefox OS is not to compete with today's high-end smartphones. "We are not aiming high and trying to crash into Fortress Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), into Fortress Google," he said at a San Francisco briefing Monday, according to The Verge.
However, he said that Firefox OS, which is primarily aimed at emerging markets, can one-up Android because newer versions of Android (4.0 and later) require more memory and processing power, which drive up the cost of devices. "Android 4 doesn't run on 256 MB of RAM... it really wants a gig [of memory]," he said. The fallback is using older versions of Android, such as 2.3 Gingerbread, which reduces the functionality, he said.
"Gingerbread is still being mass produced this year and will be mass produced next year," he said. (According to the latest Android version dashboard, as of June 3, Android versions 4.0 or later made up 58.7 percent of the active user base, but Gingerbread still commanded 36.4 percent.)
Mozilla has started regional rollouts of the Alcatel One Touch Fire and ZTE Open, its first two phones, but has others lined up. Telefónica will begin selling the ZTE Open to Spanish subscribers this week for $90 (€69), while Deutsche Telekom will introduce the smartphones in Poland in the near future. In all, Mozilla has signed more than 20 hardware and operator partners worldwide.
Other executives at competing companies have made similar claims. Greg Sullivan, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) senior product manager of Windows Phone, said in May that Windows Phone is going to aggressively target the low end of the market with Windows Phone 8 devices because devices running older Android software with fewer capabilities can't compete as affectively against newer Windows Phone devices designed for the lower end of the market.
For the time being, however, the argument is running up against evidence that low-end Android phones, even those using older software, are selling just fine. According to research firm Gartner, in the first quarter Android commanded 74.4 percent of the global handset market.
- see this The Verge article
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