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back to article Firefox OS: Go away fanbois, fandroids - you wouldn't understand

The Western world's smartphone market has devolved into a duopoly of Apple's iOS and Google's Android. In the rest of the world, however, the mobile story has yet to be written... and this is where Mozilla hopes users will embrace its mobile operating system, Firefox OS. The browser-maker wants Firefox OS to be the gateway drug …

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Bronze badge

Yeah, but

I'm enthused but I still doubt it is going to be possible to overtake iOS and Android - it's all very well talking about targeting "people who don't yet have a mobile internet device at all" but an awful lot of the people who have money to spend, which is what in the end will be most attractive to developers, already do have a mobile internet device and an existing investment in one of the current major players.

Good luck to them - it all makes good sense - I hope I am wrong about them being too late to the party.

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Silver badge

Re: Yeah, but

" it's all very well talking about targeting "people who don't yet have a mobile internet device at all""

That's me -- bog standard £20 mobe with PAYG.

But, I have noticed (well, in London anyway) a huge increase in people sharing access for free on 'normal' wireless. As speeds go up and kit gets smaller and faster there is an overlap that ought to be exploited.

It's beginning to look as if a sort of unified wireless is not too far off - my router is shared for internet and FON.

Us old people remember when there were pagers and mobiles in existence at the same time - if you wanted to send a picture you'd need to fax it.

Yup, it makes sense, especially to me -- it also, unfortunately could become another carrotty stick where they are handed out at retirement age to ensure that someone, somewhere else gets the benefits of an on-line benefits system. Though it also could mean a huge increase in phone sex on Saga cruises.

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Silver badge

Re: Yeah, but

Even assuming they did have some money to spend, dumbed down versions of things rarely get any traction. If you do manage to save enough to get dumbed down 'thing' then a 'real' thing usually isn't too much more & historically the a cheap 'real' thing will outsell an unheard of dumbed down thing. For this example a cheap Android device will be significantly more popular than a standoff OS.

There is also a social stigma (in every culture) of having the 'poor' thing. Economic bias exists in all but the most isolated cultures. If they have knowledge of phones, even through a 'bagman' they are going to know what the 'poor' phone is and counting on your market to be so destitute they can only get the lowest of low end things is a questionable strategy.

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Linux

Re: Yeah, but

But didn't you say the same thing about iOS? And Symbian before that? And Windows CE before that? And Palm before that? And...

Of course, just because it has happened before doesn't mean it will happen now, with this particular product. But I think perhaps you underestimate the inevitability of change. And as Walmart and McDonalds have demonstrated, targeting "low, low prices" with a well-known brand can sometimes be a rather successful marketing strategy.

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Anonymous Coward

And in the east too.

"The Western world's smartphone market has devolved into a duopoly of Apple's iOS and Google's Android"

Sorry, but the East is already won over on Android too...

http://thenextweb.com/asia/2013/05/31/android-breaks-50-benchmark-in-smartphone-os-installations-in-china/

More developed Asia, it's even higher. in Hong Kong last week on the MTR, there were 10 Samsung Galaxy handsets and 3 other Android handsets for every iPhone I saw.

FirefoxOS is dead in the water, nobody wants a simplistic OS that runs noddy applets.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: nobody wants a simplistic OS that runs noddy applets

Heard of iOS?

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Re: And in the east too.

Yes I thought that comment was odd too, in that duopoly doesn't make sense either, when the share is Android ~70-75%, IOS ~15-20%, WP ~5%, BB ~5% - that's domination of Android. And although IOS's figures may be higher in "the West", as you say, that just means Android is doing even better in the other markets. Even when Android had less share, it's never been "Android and IOS", despite some people claiming this for years. (Oddly when IOS was 3rd place or lower, we never heard "a duopoly Android and Symbian" or whatever, IOS still got mentioned in the list of platforms.) The duopoly comment only makes sense in the US (which has always had a very different market to the rest of the world - though perhaps some people think "the West" means "the US"...)

But I also disagree that this means there's no room for Firefox OS, despite the domination of Android. Even as a niche platform like IOS and WP have been for years it could do fine; with a massive market, even just a few percent is millions of sales.

There's room for more platforms - historically there were always more platforms in smartphones, not less.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And in the east too.

The market shares have changed a bit since then if you quote Blackberry as 5%. Blackberry haven't been over 1% market share of sales this year.

Latest market share from Kantar for April 2013 is Android 51.7%, IOS 41.4%, Windows Phone 5.6%, Blackberry 0.7%, Symbian 0.3%...

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Silver badge

Re: And in the east too. (@AC)

The Kantar figures you're citing are for the USA only — see http://www.kantarworldpanel.com/global/News/news-articles/While-Android-Leads-iOS-and-Windows-Are-Growing-At-A-Faster-Pace — and show Android ticking up a little year-on-year, iOS ticking down a little and Windows Phone eating BlackBerry's share.

Gartner run the figures worldwide and, taking smartphones in isolation, report a 69.7% share for Android and a 20.9% share for Apple. If you include all phones then Apple's share drops to 7.5% so I guess the Android number would fall proportionally (source: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2335616 ).

Possibly also of interest, Apple's absolute sales figures are up by almost 50% year-on-year totalling an increase of 40m and Samsung's are up more than 20% but that's about 70m. Nokia managed to lose a bit more than 20% of its custom during 2012, RIM about 33%.

So duopoly is questionable but it's obvious that both iOS and Android are relevant and neither is going anywhere any time soon. Can you confidently say the same about the other platforms?

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FAIL

What could possibly go wrong..

What could possibly go wrong? Giving web pages complete control of the handset? Oh right.. complete pwnage, that's what.

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Facepalm

Re: What could possibly go wrong..

So I take it you run only apps that you have authored yourself, or for which you have run a full audit of the source code, on your phone?

To paraphrase: "What could possibly go wrong? Giving APPs complete control of the handset? Oh right.. complete pwnage, that's what."

This is what the security models for privileged access are for. It makes no difference if we are talking about a Web APP or just an APP...

(... and in fact, if have you have an Apple or Android handset, you can consider the phone to be "pre-pwned")

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Re: What could possibly go wrong..

By and large, apps don't tend to install themselves as a drive-by on Android and iOS devices. The problem as I see it is that the security model creates a much greater risk that the security of the handset can be compromised by a drive-by attack.

Yes, of course iOS and Android can have malware installed in a drive-by attack despite the security model that attempts to separate the browser from the rest of the environment. In fact, most modern browsers (and plugins) attempt to sandbox the browsing session as much as possible. Firefox OS does the opposite.

So what can go wrong? Well, look at Java, Acrobat Reader, Flash, ActiveX and a number of other fundamentally broken web-enabled products. Despite all the assurances given by their vendors, they all just massively increase the attack surface area. My opinion is that Firefox OS does something similar.

It would certainly be good to have some competition to the Android / iOS duopoly. But the world isn't short of mobile OSes.

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Go

At least the android market...

might be easy to crack. I don't see too many problems to create an API wrapper/compatibility layer to run Firefox OS apps on any Android handset.

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Linux

Re: At least the android market...

The other new options - Samsung's Tizen, Canonical's Ubuntu, Jolla's Sailfish - also run web apps, and if they are wise they will ensure that FirefoxOS shares a common web API for device access with them all as well as with Android. (Unlike FirefoxOS and Tizen, Ubuntu and Sailfish also support Qt and the Android engine Dalvik, supporting two types of native apps as well.)

The mobile market has become interesting again...

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Alien

dumb question

if i want to use it as an ereader can i just copy a ton of files onto the memory card or does it need to uploaded into the cloud and thus be a pain in the arse when away from data?

tired of iphone and android and if it worked offline as an ereader would be very interested in getting one.

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Devil

Re: dumb question

Another dumb question in reply to your dumb question...

An ereader on a 3.5" screen?

/end

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Re: dumb question

i've read many books on on palm iiix or a nokia n70. small screens are comfortable for reading bare text. at least for me.

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Re: dumb question

I have a Peak - and currently there is only one eReader app (epubreader) which is quite rough but it works. You just copy your books to the sdcard - no cloud sync whatsoever. You might need an Internet connection the first time you open the app because some additional libraries are downloaded from the net.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: dumb question

?? I can read epub on an iPhone and on a generic Android tablet offline without problems, no need to sync to cloud, on the iPhone I need iTunes, on the tablet I just copy to the SD card. Are you sure you know how to use a phone or tablet? Maybe just buying a different one will not solve your problem...

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Alien

Re: dumb question

on the iphone 3g i can use ibooks, which is a crap ereader. too slow and unresponsive. not worth getting a new iphone for the increasingly restricted walled garden. pity amazon killed stanza as that worked ok, share file on desktop and download over wifi.

i have all my books on android but am getting tired of google's increasing efforts to shove g+ down my throat. it's ereaders operate the way i want. copy files to a sd card and go. as has been mentioned by one kind person firefoxos can also work this way. that's enough for me to jump to the platform.

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Bronze badge

Re: dumb question

on the iphone 3g i can use ibooks, which is a crap ereader.

I use bluefire reader, which works pretty much OK for me on my old iphone 3g running IOS3.2. For putting the epubs on the device I use USB. The iphone appears as a separate drive with a "bluefire" folder, in which I can dump the epubs. I'm using Linux on my desktop, so I don't know if it works the same for Windows.

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Its an interesting strategy

but it is also the same strategy that webOS used, and it didn't get them very far, even though webOS was (and, to me, still is) excellent.

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Silver badge

Re: Its an interesting strategy

I have to say looking at that pic and the spec list it looks like they 'borrowed' an awful lot from WebOS.

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Re: Its an interesting strategy

HP shat on the Prē developers from a very great height. I don't think Mozilla are quite as suicidal.

(Posted from my Prē3)

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Re: Its an interesting strategy

I'm well aware of how HP massively cocked it all up, but its not like webOS ever set the world alight before that.

(also posted from my beloved pre 3 :)

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Linux

Re: Its an interesting strategy

It's possible, though not certain, that webOS was simply ahead of its time with underpowered hardware to support the vision of web-centric mobile. Newton was a revolutionary device that changed the world... *after* it failed miserably in the market. webOS may share the same fate.

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Coat

I do understand.

I'm using Android now, but I see immediately the appeal of the Firefox OS.

It will make "smartphoning" accessible to multitudes that simply don't have the money for a decent Android device or iPhone.

But most interesting to me is the strategy to get developers to write code that will work well on minimal hardware. Besides ensuring that it will run better on higher power hardware, I believe this is part of the solution to hardware and energy consumption woes: just make code that does the same with less. That's the way it was done a couple decades ago when even one megabyte of RAM was just unheard of...

And, looking at one comment in particular above, I don't think Mozilla has just launched Firefix OS merely hoping it will catch on. If developers can make apps "shiny" on less power, then when its installed on a handset with more hardware power, it should easily match Android and iOS.

Gasp! What? Yes, I use Android, and I really like it, but I lets all understand: competition is what will keep manufacturers trying their best. And with Android dominating 75% of the market share, Firefox OS will hopefully have that effect.

Why? Because again, lets understand: it would be hard, maybe too hard, for any company, even Uncle Google, to resist the temptation to produce whatever they like, hoping the consumers will just keep using it. Windows 8 is evidence enough of that...

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Silver badge

Re: I do understand.

Is there any particular reason why a Firefox phone should be any cheaper than a budget Android?

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Re: I do understand.

There is a certain amount of money that a manufacturer using Android has to be pay to Microsoft. I am not sure how much this is or whether a Firefox phone would be excluded, but it might be. Budget Firefox phones should also run much smoother than budget Android. phones as it is designed from the ground up for budget handsets.

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Re: I do understand.

Well, in a way, it will because it will be deliberately designed to run on low power hardware: single core CPU, less than 1GB memory, minimal storage capacity, so manufacturers could turn out devices capable of running it at a much lower cost.

Another way to ask that could be "Is there any reason Android phones should be more expensive than a Firefox phone?"

A quad core CPU is nice, but two in one phone (like in the Samsung Galaxy S4)? What developments do we truly need in smartphones? Do we need ever more powerful (and expensive, and power hungry) devices? Why isn't software being more cleverly developed to make use of existing hardware?

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Trollface

Re: I do understand.

Yes, Microsoft must be making more money off Android than their own Windows Phone OS...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I do understand.

Yep they are at the moment. Not for long though given Windows Phone's pretty rapid growth in market share in the last few months....likely Microsoft will hit 10% market share this year.

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Re: I do understand.

Well they were selling the developer preview phones in two flavors. I got myself a Peak (149 EUR)

CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 8225 1.2Ghz x2.

UMTS 2100/1900/850 (3G HSPA).

GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (2G EDGE).

Screen 4.3" qHD IPS Multitouch.

Camera 8 MP (back) + 2 MP (front).

4 GB (ROM) and 512 MB (RAM).

Battery 1800 mAh.

I don't think they deliberately dumbed it down - I rather think it is trying to make them as cheap as possible to attract more developers

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Bronze badge

Re: I do understand.

"Is there any particular reason why a Firefox phone should be any cheaper than a budget Android?"

Yes, no need for a JavaVM and vastly simplified OS will mean lower hardware requirements.

The problem as I see it is that any app made for Firefox OS is going to need trivial tweaking (or none at all), to run on all the other mobile platforms, so it's going to be hard to obtain the fabled 'killer app' that draws customers to the platform.

I also note that iOS and ChromeOS both launched with webapps only and both quickly added support for native apps due to developer and user demand, I expect the same will happen here assuming it takes off at all.

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h3
Bronze badge

Re: I do understand.

None at all they will be selling less so I would expect it to be more expensive.

That £60 Huawei Vision doubt it will be cheaper than that.

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h3
Bronze badge

Re: I do understand.

Why are manufacturers making the things that are irrelevant like aesthetics / physical thickness more important than battery life ?

I think it is marketing people think an X core cpu is better.

I have compared the orange sandiego with the tegra onex and in all apps I tested there was pretty much no noticeable difference in speed. (And intel for some of them was converting arm code to x86). The San Diego is single core.

The LTE One X is faster for most apps than the tegra 4 one despite having less cores.

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Anonymous Coward

Pay cuts/lay-offs coming?

The truth is that there are about 10 sub-professions that are menaced by the prospect of Mobile OS platforms automating the compiling of cross-platform HTML5 into apps. It opens the field of development to that hated (i.e. by someone pushing Objective C) sub-class of 'semi-programmers' , with the likelihood of lower development costs.

Currently I work in production at a reasonably big national magazine which has to invest huge development costs for each new gadget the public might need to read the magazine on; everything from iPad and iPhone to Android, Kindle Fire and someone's digital watch. The whole thing, practically from scratch; every time. Change in functionality? F*** you, pay me. New template? F*** you, pay me. Tweak CSS? F*** you, pay me.

I imagine that the higher-ups in an organisation like ours actually half-appreciate the expensive exclusivity of paying top dollar to cater to all markets. It stops the mobile OS arena turning into an egalitarian, free-for-all internet V2.

If the Mobile OS app workflow ever does settle on a stream of cross-platform HTML5 pages that are transparently compiled across iOs, Android (and this Firefox OS..? We shall see) etc, the cost-of-entry lowers in every possible way. If this is menacing for platform-specific coders right now, it doesn't actually bode that well for the far more numerous HTML5 developers - look, for instance, at the VFX sweatshops in this country, and the queue for each 14-hour-a-day job running Maya et al. Generic HTML5 will create that kind of crowding and devaluation.

Nearly everything I work on is designed to speed the task of putting me out of a job, so I can see the signs well enough. That the Mobile OS app market will be all but taken over by generic HTML5 seems a no-brainer. How long do you really think we ought to be specifically asking for a device-dependent graphics API to kick in, instead of such things becoming an automatic part of the interpreting compiler? As for security - there are checks that can be built into the compiling process, sandboxes in place at multiple levels - and it isn't like native apps have a totally golden record in this regard anyway.

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Thumb Up

Re: Pay cuts/lay-offs coming?

That's a pretty good analysis!

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Re: Pay cuts/lay-offs coming?

Phonegap is already a pretty good solution. You can add bespoke plugins if necessary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pay cuts/lay-offs coming?

I didn't bother to mention Phonegap, as I think its niche is likely to be undermined by market forces. Right now there are armies of middlemen between content and production in the Mobile OS content arena. These armies might consolidate, admittedly, into something like Phonegap; but in the end I think it will fall to the producers of devices to stop creating obstacles to the wide diffusion of content in the app-content area. Phonegap is little more than a Rosetta stone for code that should probably be correctly compiled and interpreted by each OS's compiler in any case.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Phonegap?

Yeah, why run an html5 app in your browser when you can pay to download it as a native app with exactly the same code but running inside a web view?

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"That the Mobile OS app market will be all but taken over by generic HTML5 seems a no-brainer."

I see your point, but it's seemed that way for a long time now, and gained little real traction. And the timing of Firefox OS is interesting, there's no reason why these devices couldn't have been launched 5, or even 10 years ago. Doing it now seems more like last ditch attempt at mobile relevance than coupe-de-grace for native apps. It's entirely possible that HTML itself is being threatened by the dominance of mobile apps - what if your Mac could just run an iPad app for your site rather than browse a web site in Safari? As tablets begin to become the primary browsing device, would it then make any sense to bother with a website when you can get much better customer engagement and UX using a native app?

I think the Native vs HTML battle is far from being a no-brainer for either side.

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Linux

"what if your Mac could just run an iPad app for your site rather than browse a web site in Safari?"

Even if Macs could run iOS, writing an iPad app in place of a web page would leave 80% of users who run Android, Windows and the 5% niche of others out of reach. Wouldn't that be a suicidal business strategy?

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Facepalm

"a web-based mobile future isn't just appealing, it feels inevitable"

The kiss-of-death statement, the article's author should think about going into football commentary.

For all the hype, this is just another application manager on top of a linux kernel.

I'm not sure why the article's author thinks html5/javascript development is any better than java (android) or c++ (IOS). Maybe html5 is 'easier' to start coding with, but that lower barrier to entry could just lead to a plethora of badly written apps.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "a web-based mobile future isn't just appealing, it feels inevitable"

"For all the hype, this is just another application manager on top of a linux kernel"

What, like Android, for example? Android is a linux kernel with a java VM managing apps and not a lot else, really.

Java is a pretty cruddy language when it comes down to it (C++ is worse, sure, but ObjC is better than both) and giving developers more options is probably going to improve the quality of the code. I mean, look at the Android app store - it's not like it's a golden example of high coding standards is it? Part of that is that Java just keeps getting in the way of the coder.

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Thumb Down

Re: "a web-based mobile future isn't just appealing, it feels inevitable"

> Android is a linux kernel with a java VM managing

Dalvik isn't a JavaVM

>Part of that is that Java just keeps getting in the way of the coder.

You can code Android apps in C or C++ if you want. You might want to do some research before you start blabbering on the interwebs again.

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