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FirefoxOS and the battle for the bronze.

February 20, 2013

I’m not a super competitive guy but when I’m in a race, I’m usually in-it-to-win-it. So it is kinda amusing being in BD for Mozilla as we race super fast and super hard to with a goal for the bronze.

To explain…

It is overstating the obvious to say that two players, Apple iOS and Google Android, dominate the smartphone market. Both are fantastic platforms, both offer a ton of user value but this duopoly isn’t that great a market dynamic.

For one thing, innovation has slowed down. Outside of better screen resolutions and crappy maps, not a lot has happened to either platform for years. There’s a lot of innovation in apps, but the restrictive apps stores that exist on both platforms choke off the entire app ecosystem.

Also, it is clear that the smartphone market is lucrative and thus far, the two dominate players are keeping all the money for themselves.

So it is classic microeconomics, you have a large revenue/high margin business that is producing little innovation; this is a market ripe for new disruptive entrants.

There are several new companies coming in and for anyone who likes rooting for the underdog, both Microsoft and Blackberry are giving you a lot to cheer for. Both are pretty exciting platforms in their own ways but let’s be honest, outside of some fancy UI and maybe a more clever way to type emails, there isn’t a lot of there, there.

Touchscreens, apps stores, walled gardens… check, check, check. Not a lot of variation here except that the Blackberry is coming out with both a physical and a touch keyboard… wow!

And then there’s us. Mozilla and our FirefoxOS and all the apps we’re trying to stick into Firefox Marketplace. We get all excited about this thing called HTML5, which is really just a bunch of letters that spell “the web”.

We’re trying to put the web on a phone.

No, we’re not trying to get the web to act like a conventional smartphone, we’re actually trying to bring what is great about the web to a mobile device.

What do you love about the web? Content discovery… check! Yes, we have an app store, Firefox Marketplace, on the phone. But that is only if app stores are your thing. In reality, the Marketplace is where you’ll find only a small subset of the content available on the phone.

The content accessible on the phone is as vast as the world-wide web itself. FirefoxOS is open so users can download apps directly from the web. We’re providing intent based web app discovery that is separate from the Marketplace. This is to help you if you’re trying to get information and you don’t care if it is in an app or not.

And of course, there is absolutely nothing stopping anyone else from building and offering their own app store.

Basically, the entire phone is a content (not just app!) discovery platform. The Marketplace is a feature, not a chokepoint.

Here are another couple of great attributes, portability and cross-platform functionality. Access your content wherever the web is and whatever is running the web.

With the other smartphones, your content is often tied to the device. If you change devices or (heaven help you) change platform, then you’ve got to re-acquire, and potentially re-purchase your content all over again.

And what happens to your personal data that’s locked in an app that only runs on one platform? Sayonara!

So creating an HTML5 phone isn’t about mimicking native devices. It is bringing what we all love about the web and making it a truly mobile experience.

Sure, we’re fighting for third place now. But in a market that is hungry for innovation and something new, we’ll be going for the gold soon.


From → Apps, Technology

  1. Anonymous permalink

    You don’t have to make it a battle for the bronze here. Several Linux systems have started working on Android app compatibility, for both Dalvik apps and native apps. With a compatibility layer like that, plus your own native app store, this could become a battle for the gold against iOS.

  2. Anonymous permalink

    By the way, your comment system has an odd quirk compared to most: it wants an email first, then a name. Most comment systems have it the other way around, and every time I visit your blog, I end up entering the two backward.

    This ordering quirk seems compounded by the use of placeholders rather than real labels.

  3. Ray Stantz permalink

    “It is overstating the obvious to say that two players, Apple iOS and Google Android, dominate the smartphone market.”

    Yes, but I’m not sure how long that will be true for. I think the problem that both Apple and Google have is that Intel is getting better at making low power x86 chips. The more places you have x86 Intel, the more places it starts making sense to run full x86 Windows.

    It seems to me this will happen relatively soon for tablets. Low power Haswell and then Broadwell make a lot of sense in a tablet (and in an ultrabook with a reversible touchscreen display). When x86 tablets are practical (Surface Pro *almost* is), I suspect most people will want to run x86 Windows on them. I believe x86 tablets will effectively kill off Windows RT, substantially reduce the prevalence of Android tablets (Google will have to rely on price I suppose), and put a dent in iOS tablets (Apple will have to rely on brand loyalty).

    Next are smart phones. Intel makes smart phone chips now and they’ll be better at it in future. Perhaps Windows Phone then evolves into x86 Windows with a phone application and UI. I think a smart phone that behaves like a phone when carried around and behaves like a Windows desktop when you dock it to your large monitor, keyboard and mouse would be attractive to many people.

    While this may all be bad news for Firefox OS, I think it’s good news for Firefox itself. Having full x86 Windows on more devices translates into more devices on which Firefox can be installed.

  4. tom jones permalink

    “With the other smartphones, your content is often tied to the device. If you change devices or (heaven help you) change platform, then you’ve got to re-acquire, and potentially re-purchase your content all over again.”

    that’s why i believe that making firefox marketplace work on both desktop and firefoxOS at launch time is vital.

    if you can show the same app purchased on your phone working on your desktop, that’s something no other platform provides, and would go a long way to proving this point..

  5. Well, the distinction between normal, privileged and certified apps and what APIs they are allowed access doesn’t make B2G better than Android. Furthermore, the (AFAIK) lack of an easy way to circumvent those restrictions (like the 3rd party switch on Android) makes the phone even more closed for the power user.

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