ZTE to Launch Firefox Mobile OS Powered Smartphone within a Few Months

Word emerged a couple of months back that Mozilla was partnering with Alcatel and ZTE for its Firefox Mobile OS project. Now, Reuters is reporting that work on Mozilla’s smartphone operating system is further along than most people might have anticipated. ZTE is gearing up to release a Firefox powered phone either this year or early next year.


Firefox Mobile OS, which was previously known as Boot to Gecko, is a bold and ambitious project by Mozilla to provide a web-technology based smartphone operating system. ZTE currently manufactures a host of Android smartphones whose primary selling point is competent hardware at an attractive price point. It also has several Windows Phone devices under the Tania brand name. The surprising move to collaborate with Mozilla to introduce another smartphone operating system is simply an attempt to diversify. “We are trying to increase our efforts in coming up with our own operating system, while introducing products based on Android,” said ZTE spokesman David Dai Shu.”It’s all part of our wider plans to create a better balance of products using various operating systems. We won’t just rely on Android or Windows.”

It’s hard not to be skeptical of Mozilla’s attempts given the current hyper-competitive state of smartphone ecosystems. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android were the early movers, and they have managed to build a flourishing ecosystem that Microsoft, even with its deep pocket and close partnership with A-league manufacturers like Nokia, is struggling with compete against. Mozilla neither has a deep pocket, nor pre-existing relationships with device manufacturers, carriers, and developers. I will be following the development of Firefox Mobile OS closely, but I will be more than surprised if it actually succeeds.

Mozilla Moving Forward with Mobile Firefox OS

Mozilla has officially announced they have hardware partners for the new mobile platform that will be launching. Previously known as Boot to Gecko, Firefox Mobile OS is a complete HTML5 and web-technology based operating system. It was demoed and is available in a pre-alpha version for specific Android handsets, as a flashable image for those eager to test it out.

The first mobile devices to ship with the polished ‘Boot to Gecko’ project will be manufactured by TCL Communication Technology (better known as Alcatel) and ZTE. Both Alcatel and ZTE currently manufacture low-end Android smartphones and will likely ramp up production of devices built for Firefox Mobile OS. Mozilla has confirmed the devices will be using the popular Snapdragon SoC to power the Gaia UI.

In addition to hardware, Mozilla has also received backing from operators in many countries. Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor have all been partnered with for the possible launch of Firefox Mobile devices and services. Hopefully this will also lead to a dramatic reduction in cost of data access for end-users.

Mozilla indicates once again, they are committed to creating a fully open and accessible platform that conforms to W3C standards. Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla, stated;

 “The introduction of the open mobile OS continues the Mozilla mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web for users and developers.  As billions of users are expected to come online for the first time in the coming years, it is important to deliver a compelling smartphone experience that anyone can use,”.

That last bit is a bit reminiscent of Nokia’s S40 and Meltemi plan for “the next billion” – and we know where that has gotten them. Many have tried, and many have failed, but if Mozilla can compete with the likes of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, then it will pave the way for true openness with mobile devices.

According to their roadmap schedule, their next milestone will be July 20th, which marks full completion of Gecko and Gaia functionality and moves towards more optimizations. Based on the timeline already completed, we might see a functional developer device within the next few months. Who knows, within the year, you might be staring at the below image while your phone boots up.