Mozilla on July 2 announced that its moving full steam ahead into the mobile market with a new smartphone operating system called, Firefox OS. The platform is designed to be Web-based, and will, Mozilla hopes, carve out a niche in the lower end of the market where Googles Android and Apples iOS have so far not been so successful. By doing so, Mozilla thinks that its open-source platform could be a game-changer.
But the fact is, Firefox OS is not a game-changer in the least. The operating system has some interesting concepts, but its entering a market that it cant possibly be successful in. With smartphones on the way that wont impress anyone, how can the operating system really do something so special? Its not always smart to bet against Mozilla and its high quality products, but in this case, dont put your money on Mozilla.
1. Theres already Android
Developing an open-source operating system is by no means special any longer. Android is already dominating that space and has given no indication that theres a possibility for another platform to succeed it. Until Mozilla can prove that its operating system is a fine replacement for Android, theres no way Firefox OS can succeed.
2. Its gunning for the lower end of the market
Theres nothing wrong with going for the lower end of the market with Firefox OS, but its important to keep in mind that thats not necessarily a very profitable space. Moreover, Android continues to make inroads into there, thanks to the low-cost (and sometimes, free) smartphones running on the platform that mobile phone carriers offer customers to get them to sign service contracts. The low end of the market wont be so nice to Mozilla.
3. Firefox browser as the OS core wont work
A key component in Firefox OS is its heavy reliance upon the Firefox browser. Mozilla believes that by making the browser the core of the operating system, it can deliver a more Web-friendly experience and create a scenario in which customers dont want traditional software. Its a neat concept, but even the Firefox browser isnt so popular that it makes all that much sense for customers.
4. Is the Firefox OS too techy for consumers?
After Android launched, the term open source became very recognizable to todays consumers. They understood what the term meant and they now embrace it. However, open source in and of itself is an easier concept to understand than what Mozilla is putting forth. Yes, the operating system is open source, but its based on the browser and is reliant upon HTML5. Mozillas greatest challenge might just be educating the public on what that all means for them.
Firefox OS Isnt Starting From a Strong Position
5. Emerging markets
Mozilla has said that it will ship its first smartphones in Brazil and then extend its release to a host of other countries, including the U.S. However, it appears that Mozilla is targeting emerging markets with its operating system, but every other company delivering mobile products today is doing so as well. Whats so unique about Firefox OS that people in those markets will want to use a new and unfamiliar mobile platform?
6. Its following the losers
Lets face it: Numerous companies have tried entering the mobile market to compete against iOS and Android and failed. Take, for example, webOS, an operating system that isnt so dissimilar to Firefox OS and has now all but faded from the market. Even RIMs BlackBerry OS is on death watch. Firefox OS needs something hugely impressive to be successful. And it doesnt appear to have it.
7. Theres a Symbian battle brewing (and thats not good)
As noted, Firefox OS is gunning for both emerging markets and the lower end of the industry. Theres just one issue: Symbian, an operating system that has been catering to those markets for years, is ready for a battle. Dont forget: Nokia might have turned its back on Symbian for higher-end smartphones, but its still offering the OS in much of the rest of the mobile market. And although it has become synonymous with Nokia, Symbian is not tied to that companys ultimate fate. Symbian still has a future, and its important to not forget that.
8. Drastic changes arent necessarily better
Theres no debating that Firefox OS is a major step up over what is currently available across the mobile marketplace. But drastic changes arent necessarily better. In fact, they can sometimes fail miserably in the wake of stronger, more established competitors. Unless a miracle happens, that could very well be the Firefox OS fate.
9. Mozilla: on the downturn?
Another issue that might go overlooked by stakeholders is the fact that Mozilla itself is on somewhat of a downturn. The companys Firefox browser was once tapped to be the successor to Internet Explorer, but its now losing ground to Chrome. Mozilla doesnt get the kind of attention it once didand that could hurt Firefox OS.
10. Is there a tablet strategy?
So far, Mozilla has really only focused its effort on smartphones. But in the mobile world, success in the smartphone space is far more attainable with an associated tablet strategy. Granted, Android devices and iPhones didnt require tablets, but in the post-iPad world, everything has changed. Mozilla must remember that.