Software

Mozilla confirms its Firefox OS phones are dead

Operating system shifting to IoT uses

By Iain Thomson in San Francisco

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Mozilla announced at the Mozlando developer conference in Florida that it has officially abandoned attempts to get a foothold in the smartphone market with its Firefox OS system.

"We are proud of the benefits Firefox OS added to the Web platform and will continue to experiment with the user experience across connected devices. We will build everything we do as a genuine open source project, focused on user experience first and build tools to enable the ecosystem to grow," said Ari Jaaksi, SVP of Connected Devices at Mozilla in a statement to El Reg.

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

Hopefully the announcement wasn't too much of a shock for Jaaksi, who joined Mozilla on the project less than six months ago, but he has had practice in this sort of situation. He spent 12 years at Nokia, helping to develop the now-defunct MeeGo mobile operating system, before moving to HP to take charge of webOS, which the firm later dumped.

Firefox OS was supposed to be the software that did to the domination of Android and iOS what Firefox had done to the browser market – introducing some competition to established players with a better alternative.

The initial response from phone manufacturers was tepid. While Sony dipped its toes in the water, the major players never really supported the new OS and it remained the preserve of smaller carriers who were looking at the low-price end of the market.

The biggest problem for the operating system was a lack of developer support. Faced with having to develop for a third (or fourth if Windows Mobile was on the cards too) operating system didn't appeal to most time-strapped developers, and the range of apps out there was tiny in comparison to the competition.

As for today's shutdown, Firefox OS isn't totally toast. The operating system will still be used, but for smart devices like TVs, according to Jaaksi, and it seems it will hang around for a while yet, and may even carve out a niche for itself. ®

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