Mozilla pulls the plug on Firefox OS smartphones, will exit business

Mozilla has pulled the plug on its struggling smartphone OS business, TechCrunch reported. The company announced today that it will no longer develop Firefox OS or sell handsets running the platform, although it plans to use its technology to pursue the Internet of Things market.

Mozilla made the announcement at a developer conference in Orlando, Fla.

Introduced in 2013, Firefox OS was designed as a tool to help Mozilla pry open emerging markets with ultra-affordable, HTML5-powered handsets, and the company had even hoped to bring $25 smartphones to market. Some handsets running Firefox OS were sold for as little as $40, but even those failed to gain substantial traction in those ultra-competitive markets where margins are often razor-thin. 

Manufacturers that built Firefox OS phones include ZTE, Huawei, LTE and Alcatel. Carriers that voiced support for Firefox phones include Airtel, MTN South Africa Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa's Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor and others.

Mozilla had also hoped to bring Firefox OS to market in the U.S. next year via a partnership with Verizon, but those plans apparently fizzled.

"Firefox OS proved the flexibility of the Web, scaling from low-end smartphones all the way up to HD TVs," the company said in a prepared statement published by TechCrunch. "However, we weren't able to offer the best user experience possible and so we will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels."

The news comes amid slowing growth in the worldwide smartphone market, cementing the dominance of Android and -- to a lesser extent -- iOS. According to IDC, Android commands roughly 83 percent of the global smartphone market while Apple's iOS accounts for around 14 percent. Microsoft's Windows Phone comes in third with 2.6 percent of the market.

The Firefox OS sits in IDC's "other" category, which accounts for only 0.4 percent of the global smartphone market. 

But Mozilla isn't the only company that has faced challenges in the global smartphone market. Jolla, the company behind Sailfish OS, is laying off employees and restructuring debt after failing to close a Series C round quickly enough.

For more:
- see this TechCrunch article

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