The Mozilla Foundation, the organisation behind the Firefox Web browser and the latest smartphone operating system, Firefox OS, recently announced plans to expand Firefox OS to Africa through Airtel, MTN South Africa and Tigo, operated by Millicom.
These operators will introduce the first Firefox OS-powered smartphones to the continent.
Firefox OS, is the first device platform to be built entirely on open Web standards. Every feature is developed as an HTML5 application and, according to Mozilla vice-president for planning and ecosystems Rick Fant, the software was created to be another option for feature phone users in emerging markets, allowing them to upgrade to a smartphone without paying the price that many smartphones retail for today.
The first commercial Firefox OS smartphone, ZTE Open, was launched in Spain in July last year.
“The Web is very good at delivering content in local markets,” Fant tells TechCentral. “Every African country I know of has a vibrant Web market and we want to teach those local Web providers that they don’t have to go through the control points that exist in the other ecosystems.”
Firefox OS has an app store, but users don’t need to install apps to access third-party services. The operating system was developed for the Web, meaning users can just use a Web app or a Web service directly. “It’s all about showing how the power of the Web can go mobile.”
Firefox OS has already been launched in 25 markets across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia.
MTN has declined to provide more details about its plans to launch Firefox OS-based smartphones in South Africa, but market talk is that it will happen during the first half of next year.
The first African Firefox OS enabled smartphones are manufactured by Alcatel-Lucent under the Alcatel One Touch Fire brand. There are three products in the range.
Fant says Mozilla is focused on the entry-level market because it wants to support the next billion Web users. But he admits that getting users to consider a new platform will be a challenge. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media