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Mozilla Unveils Firefox OS Developer Preview Phones

Earlier this month Mozilla announced the first developer preview phones specifically designed for its Firefox OS.

The phones -- two of them -- are being developed by a Spanish startup called GeeksPhone in partnership with Spanish telecom Telefónica. Mozilla says the phones will be available sometime in February.

The devices are the "Keon," a basic smartphone that comes with a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 processor, 4GB of ROM, 512MB of RAM, a 3.5-inch HVGA display, a 3-megapixel camera, MicroSD support, a 1580 mAh battery, and support for 2G and 3G networks; and the "Peak," a more powerful device with a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, a 4.3-inch qHD IPS display, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera (2-megapixel front), 4GB of ROM, 512MB of RAM and a 1800 mAh battery.

Stormy Peters, director of Web sites and developer engagement at Mozilla, made the announcement on her blog on the Mozilla Hacks Web site. "Developers are critical to the Web and to Mozilla's mission to make the web accessible to everyone," Peters wrote. "Hundreds of millions of people worldwide use Firefox to discover, experience and connect to the Web. A Web based on open standards and open technologies. We couldn't have done this without Web developers. Now we are working on bringing the power of the Web to mobile, through Firefox OS, along with all the power of open standards and an open community, and once again, we'd like to invite web developers to join us."

Mozilla announced plans to develop an open-source, Web-based mobile operating system in 2012. The OS is set for release later this year.

GeeksPhone website welcomes developers to "Say hola to the future," and declares, "Our developer preview devices have been designed to enlighten the Firefox OS experience, giving developers the chance to tap the future of mobile."

But how much of an impact on current approaches to mobile application development will a web-only Firefox OS have? Not much, says Ovum senior analyst Nick Dillon. He sees the Firefox OS as "an interesting academic exercise" comparable in this regard to Google's Chrome OS. The advent of the new mobile operating system is unlikely to facilitate a dramatic change, Dillon writes in an Ovum comment. One reason: There's already plenty of support for HTML5 on the leading smartphone platforms, which means there's no real need for another one to drive adoption of the technology.

"Another significant barrier to the success of Firefox OS," Dillon wrote, "will be cost. The Firefox OS devices will be targeted at emerging markets, where they will be competing with low to mid-tier Android devices. From a consumer perspective, the Firefox OS devices will offer less functionality than comparable Android devices, without access to embedded Google services and the hundreds of thousands of third-party applications available on Android devices."

Developers who don't want to buy the dedicated hardware will still be able to test their applications using the Firefox OS simulator, the company said.

Posted by John K. Waters on January 31, 2013