Mozilla's Plans to Compete in the Smartphone Market Are Advancing

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 23, 2012

For quite some time now, Mozilla has been ramping up its effort to become a serious player in the mobile operating system and smartphone arenas. We've covered the company's Boot to Gecko platform -- an open, web-centric operating environment centered on the Gecko rendering engine -- and we covered Mozilla's alliance with Telefonica and Qualcomm to develop smartphones based on Boot to Gecko. Now, Mozilla and Telefonica have announced that the first Boot to Gecko smartphones will arrive later this year or early next, focused on Latin America to begin with.

According to Rethink Wireless:

"Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs said the two companies will start selling the devices by the end of this year or early in 2013. He did not reveal who would manufacture the handsets, but Pablo Larrieux, chief innovation officer Telefonica's Brazilian unit, Vivo, said they would be unlocked and would be priced in the same range as current featurephones."

If Mozilla and Telefonica want these smartphones to compete with full-featured existing phones, it would be wise for them to find a way to keep the prices down. As we noted here, the initial plan was to develop phones "10 times cheaper than the iPhone." Of course, Telefonica is one of the biggest telecom players in the world, and cost savings may end up being focused on wireless plans rather than the hardware.

One issue to watch as Mozilla attempts to find success on the smartphone front is how competitors will treat patents and licensing issues. Patents were at the heart of Google's move to acquire Motorola Mobility and its effort to have a big presence in the smartphone business. Microsoft currently collects heavy licensing fees from Android phone makers, based on mobile technology patents that it owns.

Mozilla, on the other hand, doesn't have a lot of experience with the hardware business and doesn't have a broad patent portfolio.  Mozilla has been steadily developing an app store, and that will be critical if Boot to Gecko-based phones are to compete with the iPhone and Android phones.

Real Wireless reports that in Brazil, smartphone penetration is not high, so there may be room to grow the market there. For its part, Mozilla has pledged to keep Boot to Gecko an open platform, and it will likely benefit from openness in some of the same ways that Android has.