Mozilla's Firefox mobile OS could be Android killer in emerging markets

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Mozilla's Firefox mobile operating system (OS) could be an Android killer in emerging markets. 

That is the judgment of Brendan Greeley at BusinessWeek.

Firefox mobile OS was specifically developed for lower tech, cheaper smartphones that mobile carriers are selling in emerging markets like Brazil, writes Greeley.

For example, the Alcatel OneTouch Fire funs the Firefox mobile OS and it sells for $151 in Sao Paulo, one-fifth the price of an iPhone 5C.

One of the world's largest mobile operators, Telefonica, launched Firefox smartphones in Spain and seven Latin American countries last year. Germany's Deutsche Telekom sells Firefox phones in Poland, Greece, Hungary and Germany and will roll them out in Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and the Czech Republic this year. And Firefox will be sold in India for $25 in a few months.

"Mozilla's alternative isn't likely to win over iOS and Android phone users in the U.S. or Japan, who aren't counting pennies on devices or data plans. But it could pose a serious threat to Apple and especially Google in the emerging markets where most sales growth lies," write Greeley.

Apart from price, a key selling point for mobile operators is that Mozilla does not require carriers to negotiate subsidies or software licensing agreements, and there is more flexibility to modify handsets. For privacy-conscious consumers, Firefox does not send user data back to Mozilla's servers for analysis or sale, Greeley notes.

"We're targeting people who never had this kind of Internet access before. Maybe they had a basic feature phone before. And for them, even a $70 smartphone is a substantial investment. As close we can get that to zero dollars, the better," Johnathan Nightingale, who heads Mozilla's Firefox browser and OS business, tells the Wall Street Journal.

This could be bad news for Android, which is betting on emerging markets for continued growth. Google's Project Svelte was a recent effort to reduce the memory requirements of the Android OS so it could function on cheaper smartphones running as little as 512 megabytes of RAM, the Journal reports.

For more:
- check out the BusinessWeek article
- read the Wall Street Journal report

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