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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 19th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Oh, a FireFox phone. Why?

23 January 2013

According to reports in today's media, a new phone is getting readied for release, and this one uses the FireFox OS and browser.

The first thing I thought of when I read this was "why?"

Don't get me wrong, I love competition in the marketplace and a healthy area of technology always has several competing platforms. This type of competition helps hone products and ensures that customers get the best possible value.

So why aren't I "over the moon" that we're seeing an alternative to the iOS, Android, Windows 8 options?

Perhaps it's because we already have enough choice in the mobile sector and when the options become too plentiful, competition can work to lessen the value of products on offer.

Do we really *need* yet another mobile OS platform?

Mozilla, the makers of FireFox OS, claim that their system is open source and will adhere to the essential web standards, HTML5 in particular.

However, just like Android, it is based on Linux so probably isn't as revolutionary as you might hope.

The point of distinction between Mozilla's offering and the rest is that it won't be supporting native apps. Instead, the mobile FireFox OS will be solely reliant on HTML5 to deliver the same type of functionality and extensions that is provided by the growing array of apps on other systems.

The bonus of this approach (according to Mozilla) is that the HTML5 code should be totally platform independent and easier to develop -- albeit the business model for generating revenues from these bits of code is yet to be explained. I suspect that an honesty-box system is going to be "it".

So will we see developers and users flock to this new mobile and its totally open operating system?

Well those who are religiously attached to the open-source philosophy will likely get onboard pretty quickly -- but those who see the creation of apps as a means of earning a living may be less inclined to get involved.

Write a clever, popular app for the iPhone or Android platform and you can earn a snot-load of money in a very short space of time, thanks to the "marketplace" concept where developers can charge a fee for each download. If you're delivering the same functionality without an easy way to prevent folk from copying it and without being paid per download then the business proposition becomes somewhat less attractive.

Then there's the hardware to consider...

Will the FireFox OS phone be as slim, as light, as bright, or even fashionable as a piece of plastic? If the hardware isn't up to the game then it doesn't matter what software is running on it -- it simply won't sell into a market as fickle as the mobile sector.

I wish Mozilla well with their venture and I do hope it succeeds -- however, I won't be holding my breath. This time, I'd *love* to be wrong though.

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