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Firefox smartphones (a misnomer if there ever was)

Let’s get one thing straight, the words Firefox and smartphones don’t mix - It is more “dumb” phones that use Firefox OS and I predict there will be tears...

Mozilla’s Firefox OS is really all about “thin client” computing where the bulk of the work is done on a server somewhere in the cloud and the device (a handset in this case) simply needs to have enough grunt to display the results in a browser. It’s the same story with Chrome OS notebooks too.

So it will allow precious dollars to be shaved off handset costs and provide a simulated smart phone experience providing you can get a reasonable data signal for these always connected devices.

At this time Firefox OS will be limited to emerging, low cost markets but that concerns me too – you need a strong and robust carrier network to support these phones and that seems to be at odds with low cost, emerging countries.

Handset makers including LG, Sony, ZTE, Alcatel, Huawei and some local ”clones” have committed to producing these handsets – generally with single or dual cores, small memory, low res and low specifications. Handset makers can’t risk over specifying in this market where price will be all.

Early reviews of Alcatel’s One Touch Firefox device have been poor with comments about jerky performance, lag and its simplistic interface.

On the positive side the world could do with more emphasis on native HTML5 and JavaScript instead of proprietary apps and FireFox OS may just be the push that is needed. However Google, Apple and Microsoft largely control the browser and phone OS market and may be unwilling to support Mozilla’s “ASM.js” crusade.

Where Firefox OS may succeed is in add on devices for smartphones like watches (where the smartphone does the processing) or other wearable computing devices.

Analysts suggest that Mozilla is keen to pick up some of the advertising revenue that Google gets from Android – I guess that is a compelling reason for them to go down this route. But in the end our carrier network is largely not ready to support dumb phones.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!