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Mozilla Kills Firefox OS for Smartphones, Eyes Connected IoT Devices

Mozilla has given up on Firefox OS -- its ill-fated challenge to Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile platforms -- to instead focus on connected devices "bringing the power of the Web to IoT."

After foreshadowing the news last December, Mozilla provided official details in a post today, basically admitting the Apple/Google duopoly was too tough to crack. "The circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones," Mozilla said.

The nascent Internet of Things (IoT) market, however, is more wide open, with plenty of room for open source champion Mozilla to provide product innovation with its community-driven, collaborative approach.

"Obviously, these decisions are substantial," Mozilla said. "The main reason they are being made is to ensure we are focusing our energies and resources on bringing the power of the Web to IoT. And let's remember why we're doing this: we're entering this exciting, fragmented space to ensure users have choice through interoperable, open solutions, and for us to act as their advocates for data privacy and security."

Mozilla said the Connected Devices team already has a few products that have passed the first hurdle in the product pipeline -- such as SmartTV -- with more on tap. "Having multiple different product innovations in development will be the approach moving forward, and we're hoping to open up the formal process to non-staff participation in the first half of the year," the organization said.

Mozilla will end development efforts on Firefox OS for smartphones -- launched in 2012 -- after the version 2.6 release, and as of March 29, its Marketplace will no longer accept Android, desktop and tablet apps, with a cutoff date for accepting Firefox OS apps yet to be determined.

One program that will continue is what Mozilla calls foxfooding -- a take on "dogfooding" (eating one's own dog food, or using one's own products) -- wherein community members provide insights, ideas and testing of products.

That program will now turn its attention to connected devices.

"The possibilities, freedom and potential of the connected devices space make it particularly exciting," Mozilla said. "We want to empower as many people as possible to get involved! A full participation program is in the design phase and will be rolled out in the months ahead."

The announcement was derided by some, including one commenter who wrote:

I am really extremely disappointed at with this decision and the rationale behind it. I don't think the decision makers involved in this understand what Firefox OS and WebRT and its WebAPIs are to Mozillians and the developer community. It may have failed to gain traction with end-users, the carrier/OEM partnerships might not have worked the way we wanted, but if there is one group that was not complaining about our system and was actually quite happy fiddling with it was Web developers, Mozillians and hackers. Now, we've just sidelined them.

Feelings were mixed among commenters on Hacker News. One said Firefox OS for smartphones was a proof of concept rather than a real product. Others said it was doomed from the start. Another expressed optimism it will continue as an open source project supported by the community, if not Mozilla:

Despite Mozilla dropping development on it, FirefoxOS is still not 'dead.' Open source things only die when no one has interest in them any more. AFAIK Firefox OS is still the most open mobile operating system. Firefox OS will still be useful as long as people keep making apps for it (and again, apps are basically Web pages, so even if it's not distributed on the marketplace, people can still [save] Web pages to homescreen), and it will be useful as long as people want to use it. It is already viable open source mobile OS. I am grateful to Mozilla for taking the time to make it.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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