Mozilla Ending Its Firefox OS Smartphone Line

While the phones are being discontinued, Mozilla is being coy about whether the Firefox OS itself will remain or be dropped as well.

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Mozilla is ending the development and sales of its low-priced Firefox OS smartphones after two years of trying unsuccessfully to compete with other mobile phones on the market. The company appears to be continuing to offer and support its Firefox OS operating system at this point, but that could change in the future.

The announcement was made at a Mozilla developer event in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 8 and was confirmed in a statement sent to eWEEK from Ari Jaaksi, the company's senior vice president of connected devices.

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

At the same time, though, the company "will continue to experiment with the user experience across connected devices" involving Firefox OS, he wrote. "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."

Jaaksi said the company will "share more on our work and new experiments across connected devices soon," leaving the ultimate fate of the Firefox OS operating system up in the air.

The Firefox OS effort first began in 2011 under the name Boot to Gecko (B2G) and was rebranded Firefox OS in July 2012, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Gecko is the name of the core rendering engine that powers Firefox, and the idea of B2G was to have a thin Linux base tightly integrated with Firefox as the foundation of a new operating system.

In January 2014 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mozilla unveiled its then-new strategy of bringing its open-source browser-based Firefox OS to TVs, tablets and even desktop PCs.

In July 2013, the first Firefox OS smartphones, the Alcatel One Touch Fire and the ZTE Open (pictured), began to enter the market.

Telefonica at the time began selling the ZTE Open for about $90, with approximately $39 of data included. The devices were designed for first-time smartphone owners. The Alcatel came in a bright Firefox orange, and the ZTE model was offered in highlighter blue.

The Firefox OS system has the look of an Android operating system on the phones, with a home page full of app icons. Facebook and Twitter are preloaded. Also included is an adaptive app search system that lets a user search based on intentions, rather than proper nouns. If you put in "sushi, "for example, you wouldn't just get apps with the word "sushi" in them but information on local sushi restaurants and maybe information on how to make sushi. A search for a band would turn up not just albums but information on buying concert tickets.