ZTE to launch Firefox OS smartphones in shift away from Android


ZTE is collaborating with Mozilla to build smartphones based on the open-source software development initiative's fledgling Firefox OS, a move to diversify the Chinese manufacturer's device portfolio away from Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone.

Reuters reports ZTE and Mozilla plan to launch Firefox OS-based smartphones during the first quarter of 2013. "We are trying to increase our efforts in coming up with our own operating system, while introducing products based on Android," said ZTE Director of Corporate Branding & Communications 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."

The Wall Street Journal reports ZTE also plans to introduce smartphones running Microsoft's new Windows Phone 8 either late this year or early next year.

Handset makers like ZTE are increasingly exploring alternatives to Android as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) continues its patent war against the Google OS. Last week, Google halted manufacturing partner Acer's plans to launch a smartphone running Chinese Internet giant Alibaba's Aliyun mobile operating system, citing software compatibility concerns. Alibaba said that Acer "was notified by Google that if the product runs Aliyun OS, Google will terminate its Android-related cooperation and other technology licensing with our partner."

Mozilla first announced the Firefox OS (formerly Boot to Gecko) last year, promising a new phone architecture that relies entirely on the Web to enable HTML5 applications with complete access to core device APIs. At launch, researcher Andreas Gal explained Mozilla would seek to "find the gaps that keep Web developers from being able to build apps that are--in every way--the equals of native apps built for the iPhone, Android and [Windows Phone]."

Telefónica is scheduled to begin selling Firefox-powered smartphones in Brazil in early 2013 through its Vivo unit; the devices will be priced in the same range as feature phones. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Telecom Italia and Telenor also have announced their support for the platform. "Firefox Mobile OS can help us drive an HTML5-based platform for creating lower-cost smartphone options for prepaid, postpaid and wholesale customers," Sprint Product Chief and Executive Vice President Fared Adib said in July.

For more:
- read this Reuters article
- read this Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)

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