Sony wants a FireFox OS handset

A number of industry heavyweights have committed to supporting smartphones running Mozilla’s nascent Firefox OS platform. And now Sony has announced its intention to launch a FireFox OS device in 2014.

The news of Sony’s interest in the OS was confirmed in an official announcement about Telefonica offering Sony’s Xperia Z and Xperia Tablet Z in select markets around the world. Indeed, the two mobile companies also pledged to pool resources in an effort “to explore the development of a handset” running Firefox OS.

“After ditching its own mobile operating systems years ago, then Nokia’s Symbian platform while it was part of Sony Ericsson, Sony has doubled-down on Android,” explained Matt Brian of TheNextWeb.

“Despite continued calls for Sony to release a Windows Phone handset, it appears the company is more focused on growing its user base in emerging markets, by developing completely open and affordable devices with little or no restrictions on usage or apps.”

As TG Daily previously reported, the first FireFox 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.

“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,” he added.