Mozilla announces partners for Firefox OS

Mozilla says it’s got 18 carriers signed up for its Firefox smartphones,  boosting the credibility of its new OS.

The operators are  América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telefónica, Telenor, TMN and VimpelCom – but not Telstra, whcih is listed simply as ‘welcoming’ the initiative.

“Firefox OS offers the performance, personalization and price you want in a smartphone and a beautiful, clean, intuitive, personalized and easy-to-use experience,” says the company in a blog.

“Firefox OS includes all the things people need from a smartphone out of the box – calls, messaging, email, camera and more – as well as the things you wish a smartphone offered, like built-in cost controls, social features with Facebook and Twitter, location-based services, the Firefox Web browser, new ability to discover one-time use and downloadable apps, Firefox Marketplace and much more.”

The first phones are likely to arrive before the summer, built by  Alcatel (TCL), Huawei, LG and ZTE. They’ll be available initially in an eclectic list of countries – Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela – with other markets to be announced ‘soon’.

The company’s focusing particularly on low-income regions which currently have low smartphone penetration.

Based as it is on HTML 5, the Firefox OS is a comparatively easy sell to developers, who don’t have to invest too much effort. The company’s Firefox Marketplace, it says, will offer apps in categories like games, news and media, business and productivity.

Neil Shah of analyst firm Strategy Analytics says he expects the Firefox OS to reach a one percent market share this year – but that to expand beyond this, it will need to address at least three main challenges.

“They have modest brand awareness as an independent platform among smartphone consumers worldwide compared to the likes of Google and Nokia, a limited initial retail presence in the influential developed markets such as the United States market, and a relatively unproven ecosystem experience of supporting apps and services,” he says.

“It’s going to be an interesting 2013, with a long tail of mobile OS platforms such as Firefox, Tizen, Sailfish, Ubuntu [challenging] the strong walled garden platforms, chipping away share [and] leveraging key operator and device OEM partnerships.”