Feature Article

February 26, 2013

Sony Joins Growing Pool of Mobile Devices to Use Firefox OS

A noteworthy schism appears to be building in the ranks of non-iOS mobile hardware as Sony, while at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013 show, recently announced its plans to bring Mozilla's Firefox OS to some parts of its mobile device lineup. Sony plans to release at least one device with Firefox OS on board in 2014, and it will be joining what looks like a growing pool of manufacturers planning to offer up at least something in the Firefox OS vein in the near-term future.

Sony took advantage of its MWC 2013 presence to reveal a multi-year arrangement with mobile provider Telefonica, in which Telefonica would offer up Sony's Xperia line in its shops around the world. While this by itself was an important addition to the lineup for Firefox OS, it's only just one addition. Sony is now part of a five-firm bloc offering Firefox OS hardware in some form or another, including Huawei, LG, Alcatel, and ZTE.

At last report, the only real holdout to the plan is Samsung, who appears to be sticking with Android following a series of successes with the OS that make Samsung at least something of a match for Apple. There are, however, reports that Samsung will be bringing in a few smartphones driven by the Tizen operating system by the end of the year.

While there are already some Firefox OS devices getting ready for entry--ZTE showed off its ZTE Open line of devices only recently with an eye toward getting them in stores for the end of the year--Sony's Firefox OS device will be somewhat different than at least the current crop. Sony's version is set to be something of a "premium user experience," as described by Sony Mobile Communications' deputy CEO and head of products business group, Bob Ishida.

Just what Ishida means by a premium experience is, as yet, unknown, but it still bodes well for Firefox OS. It would be one thing for the OS to be regarded as the stuff of entry-level hardware--while that would certainly be a niche Mozilla could fill, and profitably, it wouldn't exactly reflect the full range of possibility involved--but it would be entirely another to show up on prime hardware releases, the equivalents of the Samsung Galaxy S line and the like. If Firefox OS can get prime-time billing, as well as entry-level billing, it can establish itself as a do-it-all workhorse operating system, and that will give it significant advantages in terms of versatility and overall ease of use.

It's simple enough for the basics, yet powerful enough for the top of the line. In a marketing sense, that's pure gold for the Firefox OS, and exactly the kind of thing a newcomer OS needs to establish itself as in order to make headway in a world so clearly dominated by Android and Apple. Firefox OS certainly has a lot to offer as an operating system, but only time will tell if it can successfully break into public perception as being more than just a terrific Web browser.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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