back to article Mobile operators look to Firefox to beat back Google, Apple

Jumping into bed with Apple was a mistake for the mobile operators. Firefox is their second attempt at a solution. Apple was a mistake because operators gave away all their apps revenue to Cupertino, and that cash would have come in handy as voice and SMS cashflow declined. Instead, Apple was allowed to break all the rules – …

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operators gave away all their apps revenue

What app revenue? Operator apps are crap.

Having a central app store is what makes things work, if each operator has their own app store it will be a big fail all round for users and developers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: operators gave away all their apps revenue

Well, if users of Telefonica Firefox OS phone can access Etisalat's Firefox MarketPlace app store, that would be a big win.

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Re: operators gave away all their apps revenue

MMS for picture messaging has lost to email.

It isn't so much that things have been lost, but the competition has pushed prices down. Text messages are not really a money spinner any more Google voice is a threat. Voicemail is under threat. Directory inquiries is pretty much gone to the web. Skype will kill any attempt at video calling.

The operators can probably subsidise the handsets further in return for higher-cost services.

Personally, I'd like to see a non-advertising, non-snooping based phone. I might even pay extra for it. But unless google maps can bettered, its probably not going to be a winner with anyone.

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Re: operators gave away all their apps revenue

Not really, as a developer and user, I like the choice on Android to submit to different places, and download from different places (e.g., there's F Droid, focused on Open Source, which is normally difficult to find on Google Play, having to wade through all the applications where "free" means "laden with adverts").

I'm not sure what you mean by "Operator apps" - this isn't talking about the ones stuffed on your phone, but the portals like Vodafone Live years ago, where even on a feature phone you could download or buy games, apps, videos as well as read news. (Meanwhile, an original iphone couldn't even run apps.) Of course there was a lot less then than now, as would be expected with the change and improvements in technology.

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I'm not sure what you mean by "Operator apps"

Yes the ones that the operators used to sell from their own website / portal. There were very few of them, and they tended to look like something ported from a Vic-20. Or for one newer example I know of, 680 News Radio in Toronto is owned by Rogers. They had an iPhone app that would only work on the Rogers network (and you could not use wifi). It was crap, much better to just go to the website.

So again I say compared to what you find in iTunes or The Play store (or Amazon, F Droid...) the Operator apps are crap.

The Operators never gave anything away, they never had it in the first place. It was just something they dream about like people subscribing to TV on their phone.

If you could only get apps from your Operator it would tend to be an advantage for the big players as they could buy exclusives for a popular app. The smaller more competitive operators would have a hard time running a competitive app store. Developers would have to deal with all the different Operators.

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Re: I'm not sure what you mean by "Operator apps"

So applications on phones today in 2013 are better than in 2005, and you say that's because the latter were "operator apps"?

It couldn't possibly be due to the change in technology... (most phone games today look roughly comparable to computer games of around 1990, so if 8 years ago they were like a Vic 20, I'd say that's roughly matching the state of progress - interestingly phones are capable of a lot more, having the computing power of desktops within the last 10 years, but most games don't take advantage of that).

Yes, it's true that "apps" offered by websites or companies are rubbish, but then I'm not sure what that's got to do with phone network operators. Indeed, your argument seems contradictory - first you say "operator apps" are bad because they were worse than what you can get on an iphone today, then you say "operator apps" are bad, because there are bad apps on an iphone today...

"If you could only get apps from your Operator"

Note that this was never, at least not on my Vodafone phone - the operator portal was offered in addition to apps I could download anywhere on the Internet. I agree making it so you can only download from one place is a bad thing, thankfully only iphone does that.

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Of course, when the Telefonica/O2 guy said '“moving backward, duopolies are no good for anyone", he really meant to say "moving backward, duopolies are no good for us. Telcos don't want to be the dumb pipes they really are (and the only thing they're any good at), and want a monopoly instead. Also, java applets that look like zx81 games are really cool, and stuff'.

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re. " ... the dumb pipes they really are ..."

Yep. The Post Office don't take a percentage of the value of cheques I post in the mail. My cable internet ISP don't take a percentage of the credit card and Paypal payments I make using the internet. They just shovel my data, which is what I pay them for. Why do the mobile operators think they can interfere and dip their fingers into any data transactions between me and a vendor?

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Re: re. " ... the dumb pipes they really are ..."

Save us from manufacturer and operator app stores.

What will happen with Firefox OS and Ubuntu is what has happened to Android. The operators and manufacturers, in the mistaken belief that we actually give a pair of dingos' kidneys about their brands, will install an app store on their devices and everyone will just use the official Firefox/Ubuntu app store instead as it is cheaper to buy things from, better designed and/or they have more apps on it.

Some of the dumber manufacturers and operators will see that no-one is using their app store and decide that the solution to that problem is to make their app store the only app store on the device, and will therefore only sell to less technically-savvy customers who probably won't buy any apps anyway.

I used to think that eventually the operators and manufacturers would have to give up and focus on their core strengths of making decent hardware / providing a reliable dumb data pipe, but it seems that they're going to keep going round in circles with this "we want to own the platform" rubbish for the foreseeable future.

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They'll sell more non-Android non-iOS non-WP8 non-BB10 phones than people think

It might be FirefoxOS, it might be something else, but they'll sell. Many. Very many. A lot of people, particularly those who are buying low end "smartphones" in name only that are built on Android because it is a handy free (or near free, if they pay the MS tax) OS to use. If they build these to avoid the MS tax, that savings alone will be enough to let FirefoxOS replace Android on the very low end.

These phones on the low end aren't products that buyers seek out and aspire to, like an iPhone 5 or GS3, they are phones that you get free or discounted, or you buy because they are one of the cheapest options out there. The buyers mostly don't know or care what OS it is running, either because they couldn't get the phone they wished they could afford, or because they have no interest in doing the sort of stuff all of us are doing on our fancy phones.

Carriers will push these on people by offering better deals to those who take them, giving customers walking in to the carrier store the hard sell on their virtues, or simply listing them near the top in the list of phones they have on their web page (seriously, who would ever read down to the bottom, getting placement in the first row is probably worth a ton of sales)

The carriers aren't our friends. But then neither are Apple, Google, Microsoft or Samsung...

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Anonymous Coward

What we really need

Is for the 'Smart' part of the phone to be open hardware so that the user can install any OS they like on it!

I would like to try another OS, but not if it means buying and subsequently having to throwaway a whole phone.

I don't have to buy a new PC if I want to run Linux or Windows ... it really can't be that hard to sort this out for the 'computer' we carry in our pockets!!!

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Re: What we really need

I suspect the mobile Firefox and Ubuntu operating systems will be ported to most Android handsets, although it might be a bit "unofficial" for most people.

Unfortunately I doubt that will change much - you and I might want this feature, but most people just want a phone that can do pocket computer stuff - not a pocket computer that they have to set up before they can use.

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Anonymous Coward

Ubuntu Mobile OS?

As a consumer I like the idea of another mobile OS out there. I also hope that the Ubuntu Mobile option makes it big as I am pretty sure they can really give Apple and Google a run for their money. Not sure about Mozilla in this space but then I don't see a bright future for their current offerings given that both Apple and Google promote their own browsing solutions against FF.

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Boffin

FireFox Phone

Am I remembering wrong or didn't Mozilla put out a YouTube of what thy would do if they built a phone?

As I recall it was pretty amazing, but that was a couple of years ago.

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Given how prominently the networks seem to advertise iphones (whilst the better selling Android phones get less space on the windows), it seems their own fault.

"Of course one of the things that made iPhone a success was that it was focused in its vision and not designed by consent."

I'm not sure that's true, let alone an "of course" - Symbian was the number one operating system until 2011, with Android being number one since then. Apart from a transitionary period, Symbian had greater than 50% for many years, with Android now having a whopping 80% market share.

Meanwhile, the "focused on their vision" platforms - IOS, Windows Phone - seem far less successful in comparison.

"With the past history of failures in anything co-operative"

Really? Well sure, if you're one of these people who think that iphone is number one (it never was - yet it was deemed a "success" for selling 1 million in 76 days, which is tiny compared to Symbian or Android sales), and think that no one bought or buys Symbian or Android. The reality speaks different.

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Loving the "think in Russian" reference.

Sadly I expect it's a measure of just how big a geek I am that I got it in the first place.

Agree with the comments about mobile operators not having a right to take a slice of our transactions with a third party.

I don't really hold out much hope for Firefox OS tho.

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There's a chance this will succeed - it's HTML5 not firefox OS

HTML5 is the near future and if Firefox OS is optmised to run it then there is a very strong change it will succeed. Already people have started writing html5 'apps' to bypass Apple's control and it taking commissions - the FT and Amazon for starters. IMHO, for Firefox OS to truly succeed it needs to easily interact with dbases such as couchbase - then we have a new game in town - one that won't be under the control of phone manufactureres, phone companies or cloud service providers.

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