The first device running the new Firefox operating system will hit UK stores in late 2013, with the UK market seen as ‘very important’ to the success of the platform.
Telefónica Digital is developing the operating system with Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox internet browser. The browser is the third most popular worldwide, estimated to be used by a quarter of internet users. ZTE and Alcatel are the first manufacturers to sign deals to develop phones carrying the web-based OS. The first Firefox phones will go on sale in Brazil in early 2013 for less than $100.
During a presentation at Telefónica’s Digital Development Day in central London last Friday (6 July), Carlos Domingo, director of product development, showcased the functions of the operating system on a prototype phone. Manufacturers will be able to build functions through web-based apps, rather than conventional apps. This will have less of a drain on a device’s hardware, which means Firefox handsets can be sold cheaper. Domingo said: ‘Apple is in a fight at the high-end of the operating systems market. On the hardware side, it’s Apple and Samsung. But there is a huge opportunity in terms of people who are not going to buy an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S III but want a smartphone that provides a good user experience.’
Telefónica Digital CEO Matthew Key said the company was speaking to four other manufacturers about producing Firefox devices. Six operators have agreed to stock forthcoming products but Key claimed that more were needed. He said: ‘It’s important for us to scale and what we need is other operators to step up to the mark and get involved in the initiative.’
Key said the operating system would be critical in unlocking sales in underdeveloped smartphone markets like South America, where adoption is less than 10%. He said: ‘What it is about is producing the same experience as on an Android handset but for cheaper, or offering a better experience than a top level handset but at the same price.’
However, speaking to Mobile, Domingo said Firefox devices would also be aimed at mature markets like the UK. He said: ‘I think [the UK] is going to be very important. The UK is an important market because of its size and maturity and we definitely want to bring devices there.’
The Telefónica Digital Development Day showcased a range of products, with the business predicting it will contribute €5bn of revenue by 2015. Key predicted that sales will grow by around 20% each year across a number of different services, including mobile health. He added: ‘The more products that we develop and customers use, the lower churn will be. If we have differentiated products then we will increase market share.’
Editor: Graeme Neill