Firefox OS Smartphone

28th Jan 2013
Firefox OS Smartphone

First published on TalkingWeb.co.uk

Peak and Keon are “developer preview” smartphones, with relatively low-spec hardward designed to get developers experimenting with web apps for the new Firefox operating system.

Whilst the phones themselves are reasonably basic compared to the latest iPhones for example, they do all they need to do because they’re all about the web.

Just the other day we, at the web development company I work for, were debating whether we should change our offering to being more focused towards iPhone and Android apps than websites, but our technical director said “I think stick with the web, it’ll come back round again, it’s more flexible”. And then a few days later we start reading the press releases about Firefox OS and how that’s exactly what they are trying to do! So we wholeheartedly agree!

If you get an iPhone app built, you can’t use that app on an Android phone. So you need to get a different one built for Android. And then a different one built for Windows’ phones etc. And then costs and timescales can add up. If you build a web app, there are some differences in what it can do / how it works, but all phones will be able to access it and use it (typically speaking, with a bit of testing!).

Firefox are basing apps for their phone / operating system on the web – meaning you can have your website, make a few tweaks / add a bit of info for Firefox and boom! You’ve got a Firefox OS app. As they say on their website “With Firefox OS, the Web is the platform.“.

I haven’t found any info that goes any deeper than this at present – I’m yet to have a dig around with their developer area – because I guess this means, if the phones are low spec, that the apps are still online. But by becoming an app, they’ll be able to play nicely with the phone’s hardware – eg. GPS and camera etc.

Firefox are very behind in the smartphone market  in the US and the UK – which they’re well aware of. And so they’re embarking on a tour, touting their developer-wares in places such as Bangalore, Nairobi and Jakarta. If they can get developers in emerging markets to jump on their bandwagon, then they might get a foot hold in some places.

Personally I hope they catch on everywhere – I quite want a bright orange phone now I’ve seen one! I’d carry it as a badge of Firefox pride! And I hope that this marks a turning point for how other smartphone operating systems change in the future.

The web is a vast, open-to-all, widely supported and widely contributed to eco system so why not use that as the bedrock of your systems?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Google – which some clients still think is the Internet – adopt this approach with Andriod, as their work with Google Gears many moons ago and Chromebooks show that they’re keen to use web technology as a basis for more. But I kinda doubt Apple will follow suit… they’re not one for following the crowd, or haven’t been in past years, to the extent that it sometimes feels like they go against the crowd just to be the cool kid. We’ll see!

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