Firefox Develops Open-Source Smartphone for Emerging Markets

The makers of the Firefox Web browser plan to launch an open-source mobile phone operating system next year, with the aim of reducing the price point for smartphones to as low as $100.

The Mozilla Foundation, which curates the Firefox open-source browser code, is partnering with Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica to launch the project in Latin America, where Telefonica has 215 million mobile subscribers.  Telefonica’s global connections could also help Mozilla expand the low-cost smartphones into China and other regions. Germany’s Deutsche Telekom is also reportedly involved.

The foundation’s goal isn’t simply to put cheaper smartphones into more hands around the world, reports the New York Times Bits Blog, but to counter the proprietary paradigm shift taking place as the Internet goes mobile:

Mozilla hopes its phone will increase the use of the Web on mobile devices, instead of mobile apps created to work only with Apple or Google products. It still plans to release a mobile “store” where people can buy mobile software, but does not plan to police it, like Apple does, or block developers not working with Google, as the search company does with its store.

The Firefox smartphones will work according to technical standards that will make it easy for content developed for the Web to move to phones, [Mozilla Foundation chief executive Gary] Kovacs said, perhaps eventually eliminating the need for specially built mobile applications.

Two Chinese companies, ZTE and the TCL Corporation, will be the first to manufacturer the phones, with Qualcomm providing the chips.

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