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Foxconn recruiting 3,000-strong army to work on Firefox OS

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Reducing security risks from open source software

Foxconn is a firm believer in the Mozilla Foundation's open source Firefox OS – so much so that the Taiwanese electronics giant is reportedly planning to beef up its software staff by as many as 3,000 workers to help support the platform.

Mozilla and Foxconn announced a "wide-ranging partnership" earlier this month, with Foxconn saying it would help its customers build smartphones based on Firefox OS. The electronics maker is believed to be working on at least five device prototypes around the platform, which its partners could potentially offer under their own brands.

On Thursday, Foxconn announced that it also plans to hire between 2,000 and 3,000 software developers in Taiwan to help with its Firefox OS efforts. The electronics manufacturer said it is looking for programmers with experience in operating systems, HTML5, and cloud computing.

Just what all of those developers will be working on, Foxconn didn't say. But with Mozilla planning to launch the first Firefox OS smartphones in emerging markets this year, presumably there will be a lot of last-minute software tweaks needed.

From an app developer's perspective, everything about Firefox OS is based on HTML5 and its related web standards, right down to basic functions like placing calls and SMS messaging. But the OS still needs software to interface with the phone's hardware, including the Linux kernel and hardware drivers.

Device makers will presumably also want to put an individual stamp on their Firefox OS products, much as they do with Android devices. Some of Foxconn's coders may be able to help with that, via UI modifications and custom apps.

Foxconn's call for cloud computing experts might mean that it's also planning to help its partners develop online ecosystems around their Firefox OS products.

In a departure from other smartphone platforms, Mozilla does not intend to pursue a walled-garden approach with Firefox OS. An unlimited number of vendors will be free to develop their own online stores and services for the platform, and Mozilla – a nonprofit organization – will demand no share of their revenues.

Foxconn has said that it has no plans to market Firefox OS devices under its own brand, preferring to work as a manufacturer for other companies. It's unclear whether the company now plans to offer cloud services in a similar capacity.

But Foxconn isn't the first hardware maker to sign on with Mozilla's efforts. Spanish start-up Geeksphone has already shipped a limited run of Firefox OS devices, although those models were intended for developers only. Chinese electronics giant ZTE announced in January that it was developing a Firefox OS handset with an unnamed carrier, and even Sony is getting in on the act.

Mozilla has said that the first consumer Firefox OS phones will launch on Telefónica's network in Brazil this year, but whether those devices will be manufactured by Foxconn or some other company is not known. ®

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