Mozilla CEO Kovacs to step down; Gong appointed SVP of mobile devices

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Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs said he will step down from his position later this year, a position he has held since 2010. The company said it has begun a search for a replacement CEO. Concurrent with the news, Mozilla announced a number of management movements including the appointment of Li Gong as Mozilla's senior vice president of mobile devices, where he will help oversee the progress of Mozilla's HTML5-based Firefox smartphone operating system.

Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs

Gary Kovacs

Kovacs said he will continue to provide "vision and leadership" as a member of Mozilla's board of directors. Gong, currently president of Mozilla's Asia Operations, will work on advancing the adoption of Firefox OS on mobile devices, the company said, including engagement with Mozilla's device partners. Gong's appointment to the position makes sense considering most of Mozilla's Firefox phone makers are based in China and other Asian countries.

The news comes during a critical time for Mozilla. The company, best known for the Firefox desktop Internet browser, is working to expand its mobile strategy. A central part of that effort is Mozilla's Firefox OS, a smartphone operating system based around the HTML5 standard. The company earlier this year detailed its Firefox OS strategy, which revolves around selling low-cost Firefox phones into emerging markets. Mozilla earlier this year said the first Firefox OS devices will be available to consumers in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela, and that additional markets will be announced soon.  The company said a Firefox phone likely won't arrive in the United States until 2014.

Mozilla said 17 operators have so far committed to launching Firefox OS devices, including Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa's Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor, TMN and VimpelCom. As for handsets, Mozilla said that TCL's Alcatel brand, LG Electronics and ZTE will build the first Firefox OS devices, with Huawei to follow later this year. More handset makers will likely be added in the future. All of the devices will run on Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon processors.

"The past two and a half years have been pivotal in the evolution and rapid growth of Mozilla," said Kovacs. "I am very proud of our accomplishments as a team. In our mission to empower the next two billion Web users, we've made great advances in desktop and mobile and in our ability to lead at the pace of the market. With this solid foundation and a strong team in place, this is the right time for me to announce the transition plan and a vote of confidence in the abilities of the leadership team."

In a blog post announcing the news, Mozilla explained that Kovacs "accomplished the goals and objectives he and the team set out to achieve." The company said that Kovacs started in 2010 to help guide Mozilla's "pivot to mobile," and the company pointed to its Firefox smartphone OS and its Firefox browser for Android as evidence of the success of that pivot. Mozilla's now-shuttered Firefox browser for iOS was conspicuous in its absence from Mozilla's post.

More recently, Mozilla announced a partnership with Samsung Electronics to build Servo, an experimental Web browser optimized for mobile devices running Google's Android operating system and ARM processors.

"With a solid foundation now in place, Mozilla is entering an exciting phase--as we launch mobile devices with our partners around the globe--and a reinvigorated mission in protecting the Internet freedoms for the next 2 billion people coming online in the coming years," the company wrote.

For more:
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this Mozilla post

Related articles:
Mozilla, Samsung team on Servo browser engine for Android
Mozilla: No Firefox for iOS until Apple loosens browser restrictions
Mozilla unveils first Firefox OS developer preview phones
Forecast: Firefox OS will power just 1 percent of smartphones shipped in 2013
ZTE to launch Firefox OS smartphones in shift away from Android
Sprint vows support for Mozilla's Firefox mobile OS

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