back to article Mozilla backs away from mobile OS as Android looks invincible

If 2014 was a year of brave new mobile operating systems, challenging Android’s dominance with open platforms and modern cloud-oriented designs, 2016 looks set to be the year when their hopes die. A week after Finnish startup Jolla slashed the staff working on its Sailfish mobile system, Mozilla has announced that it plans to …

  1. Lamont Cranston

    A shame, but not a surprise to anyone, I suppose.

    Should we start touting 20## as the year of [something other than Android] on the mobile?

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: A shame, but not a surprise to anyone, I suppose.

      Perhaps if that first digit is a 2. The network effect is everything in computing but eventually it shifts. Ask IBM and Microsoft.

  2. StaudN
    Trollface

    "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

    Isn't it awful when you can hit 80% of the market by developing for just one platform?.... oh, wait... It's only awful if you're somebody else who is crying because you want a piece of the pie which you have very clearly missed out on and now it's too late.

    Android is to mobile as Windows is to desktop: each a dominant market leader on a platform which others (Apple and *nix) can only every aspire to achieve such dominance of. Get over it, move on and stop writing such pitiful stories as this... you're missing the most important fact: such domination is ultimately good for the customer. The customer just wants stuff to work and to have a broad spectrum of available applications... and not to have to sift through 50 different yet mundanely similar options.

    After all, the customer is always right. Right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

      I can do without a million pieces of freemium malware (99.9% of all Android software is malware), in exchange for a secure, enthusiast-oriented mobile OS.

      1. StaudN
        Thumb Down

        Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

        Care to cite a source for this 99.9% figure? ...

        Seriously though: you destroyed your own point when you said "enthusiast-oriented" - you put yourself firmly in the minority, which is not what this discussion is about.

        1. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

          >Seriously though: you destroyed your own point when you said "enthusiast-oriented"

          'Twas but a personal opinion.

          I agree. I'd be happy to be function-deficient in return for some privacy. Give me a bog standard linux install on a phone. I'd be happy with a bigger battery and I can live without your Play/App stores. I'd need a touch interface for control settings and less than 10 applications. I'll bet someone could whip those up pretty quickly. Web, mail, maps, ebook reader, video, addressbook, phone dialer, messaging/sms.

          As the hacks and id theft numbers grow people will begin to question the dominant platforms as they have with Windows. more so, since the functions are less critical and easier to replicate. Sure there are lots of apps and purchases, but these are personal devices - time spent setting up a "new shiney" isn't a problem. We don't need a new Android to rule the world, we just want to be able to easily load an OS of our choice and have a play with it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

        I can do without a million pieces of freemium malware (99.9% of all Android software is malware), in exchange for a secure, enthusiast-oriented mobile OS.

        While you're typing that from your Windows desktop...

        You personally may not have been, but it's funny how there's a lot of people complaining about Androids malware when their Windows desktops have collected more malware the past 3 month than their Androids ever have.

        But yes, I too would have preferred to have a FF phone. If only they could pump as much money into marketing as Microsoft.

        1. StaudN

          Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

          Well, the more market share you have, the more malware you attract - just because [insert little-known-OS name X here] hasn't had malware/security problems does NOT equate to being more secure, in fact very much the opposite is the case.

          Much like encryption, the better known / more attacked a target is, the more hardened it becomes over time. Security by obscurity is well documented as a shaky prospect... even Microsoft (who I'm no fan of) are starting to open source core parts of their systems [see .NET framework] which is a huge move in the right direction.

          FYI, I think that most people that get malware on Windows machines these days are people who a) run as administrator and b) click on links from Nigerian princes and c) are dumb enough to use a web browser which is closely tied into the operating system (facepalm Microsoft, please give that one up - there's nothing for you to gain by offering your own browser anymore! Do us a favour and uninstall the damn thing as standard!).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

            This depressing picture

            I thought you meant the picture of the fox having a shit that heads up the article. It looks a bit constipated and angry, although I'm not sure it's that depressing.

            But like Brer Fox, I too had an unshiftable dreadnought the other week, and that wasn't good for my temperament either. And most of you wouldn't have liked a picture.

            1. Nixinkome

              Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

              In passing:

              "Another poopud on the patio".

              Ready for streaming?

        2. david bates

          Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

          In this world where Microsoft and the various Linux flavours do not make their own PCs I dont get why Firefox are bothering with phones at this stage. They should have gone down the Cyanogen route and released ISOs for various rooted devices. At least they'd get the OS out there and actively developed by the enthusiast community.

      3. vacantrob

        Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

        99% of all free apps on any platform are basically malware...

        1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

          > 99% of all free apps on any platform are basically malware...

          So what are you saying? Windows 10, being 'free', is 99% malware?

    2. Mikel

      Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

      That's only 2.8 billion potential users for an app you can develop on a garbage bin PC with Linux for no money, and sell in every country in the world with no marketing, shipping or sales overhead. How tragic for the nerd kid who hopes to make it big - to come to an age with such a dearth of opportunity.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "This depressing picture"? Aye right...

      "After all, the customer is always right. Right?"

      But who's the customer & who's the product? Right?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Streaming, seriously?

    I spend at least 2 hours a day in the Paris subway - I want my apps to work there, not to depend on an internet connection that cannot possibly work underground (because a peak hour trainload of people carrying cellphones will overwhelm any range of frequencies, even after they'll upgrade the 2G stations).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Streaming, seriously?

      AFAICT Firefox OS is, counter to the assertions of the article, actually much less focused on online services and streaming as Android. For one thing, it's not primarily backed by a company whose business model is "all your data are belong to us".

    2. David 132 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Streaming, seriously?

      It's an article of faith among the big IT players that everyone has fast Internet connectivity, everywhere, all the time. Because that's the case in Mountain View and Redmond and Cupertino, and what holds there is also valid for the rest of the world, right?

      So we get cloud-based this and streaming that and having to connect our dumb terminals to the mainframe to do anything useful. And out here in the real world, annoyances like you mention - hey, Cloudophiles, let me know when there's LTE connectivity in the Paris subway, or the London Tube, or on a plane (no, $20 for 2 hours Pogo connectivity doesn't cut it).

      Oh, and the person at Apple who thought it would be "helpful" to have my phone tell me that "Mobile data is turned off for $APP" every single time - please pound rusty nails into your hands and never, ever, do any human-computer interaction work ever again. Thanks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Streaming, seriously?

      Use of web technologies in the development of apps (HTML & Javascript) does not equate to always requiring an internet connection to use them.

  4. vadertime
    Alien

    The Android-iOS duopoly was already in full swing 24 months ago. Both mobile OS' have humongous lead over everyone else that nobody can catch the. It's like the 100 meter dash where these two are already near the finish line and the others are still standing at the start line. First to innovate and first to market, it's a classic example in the business world.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Both mobile OS' have humongous lead over everyone else that nobody can catch

      At one time Nokia had a humungous lead that nobody could catch, along with what (at the time) was an adequately populated app and media store, accompanied by the best mapping and navigation.

      The market is fickle, loyalty is uncertain, and contracts last at most two years. Apple is a brand, with some TLC it will endure. Android is used because its (by most people's reckoning) the best cheap alternative. Who is locked in to Android by the ecosystem, by media libraries, or by the brand?

      Android leads the market only because nobody gives away anything better. Corporate history says that markets don't predict innovation, but that it always does happen, and incumbents usually don't see it until too late. Think about all the great "has been" names on the big IT tombstone. One day Android and Google will be on that stone.

      How long until that happens I wouldn't hazard a guess, nor whether the name Microsoft will appear on the stone before or after Android.

    2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      > First to innovate and first to market, it's a classic example in the business world.

      Except it isn't. iOS and Android were not first at anything. Microsoft had 'smart phones' a dozen years ago, and even they weren't first.

      1. nijam

        > Microsoft had 'smart phones' a dozen years ago, and even they weren't first.

        Surely that should read "...and they weren't even smart"?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Firefox OS was built around on a web-based experience, rather than native apps, which helped it to work well on low cost handsets, but also relied on a shift from apps and downloads towards streaming and web services – a shift which has proved slower than many expected on mobile devices.

    Nope. Almost completely missed the mark. I don't remember Mozilla saying that always-on services were ever a focus or design goal of the operating system, any more than any other mobile OS. Perhaps the author is confusing Firefox OS with ChromeOS?

    Certainly, Firefox OS was built to have apps make use of web technologies, but by no means does that require any kind of streaming, web services, or even internet connection (my own FxOS devices have been used mostly without any wifi or other data connection).

    Offline apps have been just as important to Firefox OS as to Android and iOS, and nothing about any of those platforms prevents their use. Whether app developers provide such - on any of the platforms - is another question entirely.

  6. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    passing era of native apps, downloads and a ‘fat device’

    Daft ejits if they think a mobile connection can ever replace local apps and local music and local photo taking and local note writing. Even Chromebook backtracked on that.

    I don't want a cloudy phone. I don't want to rent services, experience out of coverage errors and have a data bill. Actually I'd like all the Google "cloudy" services such as Playstore and Location to be able to be disabled, manual or automatic/startup like on Windows or Linux.

    I'm quite happy with USB storage mode too, to put stuff on/off from laptop.

    1. StaudN
      Angel

      Re: passing era of native apps, downloads and a ‘fat device’

      Why not have the best of both worlds?

      I think that "passing" is an unfortunate choice of word there... surely a fat, cloudy, disconnectable device is better than either/or?

    2. andy 28

      Re: passing era of native apps, downloads and a ‘fat device’

      Android 4.something through to 5.1 (don't know about 6) you can disable all the google apps without needing root or the like. When I got my Z1C I was going to put CM on it but didn't once I'd stopped all the google stuff. Fdroid for apps. And battery lasts a week now.

      I'd have given ff os a run if it was available like CM without having to buy specific hardware.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was in the tea leaves from the off that FF OS was going to sink without trace.

    Unfortuantely one of Mozilla's more useful offerings, Thunderbird has been proposed to be put out to community pasture yet again:

    http://www.theverge.com/2015/12/1/9832148/mozilla-proposes-splitting-off-thunderbird-email-client

    Hopefully LibreOffice could pick this up, work on it and bundle it to give a better MS office competitor.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Hopefully LibreOffice could pick this up, work on it and bundle it to give a better MS office competitor."

      https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Ideas_for_the_integration_of_Thunderbird_with_LibreOffice

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Whilst digging though the possibility of such integration I discovered that until comparatively recently LibreOffice incorporated an old, hacked version of SeaMonkey just so they could have access to the address book code. What a missed opportunity. They could have exposed the mail client and kept with an up to date version. They could even have exposed the web interface for good measure. Assuming "hacked" doesn't mean large chunks chopped out it wouldn't have even increased the footprint.

        1. phil dude
          Thumb Up

          LO....!

          @Doc syntax +1 many thanks for that!

          P.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @doc syntax

        Ta for the info +1

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OSdev is easy...

    Even building an OS from scratch (as opposed to riding on Linux/BSD) is easy, relative to the difficulty of getting anyone to use a new OS. It's the 4-minute mile of marketing.

    And it doesn't get any easier if you squander your existing userbase by foisting dumb new UIs on them, taking sides in culture wars, and partnering with the likes of Yahoo and Pocket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OSdev is easy...

      I'm not sure I understand the point you're trying to make, but if someone were to produce a "new" OS that runs Android apps and sell decent phones with that OS on them, at a decent price, then I think they'd find a market all right. Whereas developing a "new" OS that could run all Windows binaries would be very difficult, practically impossible, because of all the undocumented APIs, developing a "new" OS that could run Android binaries would be relatively easy, I think. mainly because you could refer to, even borrow, parts of Android in order to do it. Why doesn't someone do this? Probably because Android itself is good enough and flexible enough.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: OSdev is easy...

        > developing a "new" OS that could run Android binaries would be relatively easy, I think. mainly because you could refer to, even borrow, parts of Android in order to do it. Why doesn't someone do this?

        Many have. Cyanogenmod, Amazon Fire, B&N Nook, Nokia X, ...

        Of course these use rather more 'borrow parts' than you may have been speculating but they are still independent and can't be named 'Android'. The hard part is providing independent services that replace Google's.

      2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Re: OSdev is easy...

        Note that Blackberry OS 10 *does* run Android apps (ok, 4.3 runtime, linked to Amazon app store by default, any apps using Google App Services needs hacking), and it's not setting the world on fire. Granted the phones aren't quite as cheap as the cheapo Android ones, and that's clearly why Microsoft are trying hard to target the low end as well as the high end.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OSdev is easy...

        > if someone were to produce a "new" OS that runs Android apps and sell decent phones with that OS on them, at a decent price, then I think they'd find a market all right ....

        Sure, if you wanted an OS that runs Android apps, you'd simply fork Android. If you wanted a truly user-friendly experience spanning all the platforms they use (not just your phones), you'd avoid all that. Firefox OS and Chrome OS tried to use HTML5 instead. It might have worked if consumers cared about portability, developers didn't care about the appstore goldrush, and standards committees could work quickly. It was too complicated anyway. You'd need a fresh start. It would be austere, like Linux in the 90s or Windows in the 80s. If it ever happens it'll probably come from crazy hobbyists, and it'll only catch on when Android becomes as unusable as Windows is today.

  9. DougS Silver badge

    Why don't they just fork Android?

    They don't actually want to replace the OS or the apps, they want to replace Google at the tollbooth making money post-sale by collecting and trading on people's personal information. So stop trying to accomplish this by writing a new OS that requires all the apps to be ported.

    Instead get together all the interested parties and decide on replacements for Google functionality. Use Bing for search (or Baidu/Yandex etc. in other countries where appropriate) Here Maps or Openstreetmap, and so forth.

    They don't need a separate app store, they can still get third party apps via the Play store. At least I think, maybe Google's heavy hand prevents that if you don't accept all the googly bits of Android - otherwise having one central alternate app store would at least provide a single place for devs to submit their apps to.

    Maybe they could even address the problems with updates, by making deals with carriers to give them a cut of that post-sale revenue in exchange for not letting the carrier touch the installed OS so it can be updated quickly and directly from home base like Apple does. Heck that alone would probably cause a lot of Android using Reg readers to switch.

    1. phil dude
      Linux

      Re: Why don't they just fork Android?

      @DougS: That was my first thought too...why not make a less creepy skin that all the hardware manufacturers seem to feel compelled to foist upon us.

      Oh, and a bit of privacy too...

      P.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great news for consumers of course

    Opensource OS that is universal, apps and content purchases that work across any make of phone (except one).

    Don't like this years Samsung offering? No problem, buy a Sony and just sign in, bingo all apps and data are transferred. This is the reality now.

  11. Floydian Slip
    Coat

    Long tern Android user

    I've been using Android almost since it was released and have watched it develop and mature in to a stable platform.

    I am also frustrated by the amount of tech that I use, phone, tablet, laptop and desktop because each has its place in the productivity stream.

    I'm quite taken by Windows 10 mobiles and MS' Continuum where you have a small box by your desk that you connect your Win 10 mobe to and you have access to a full size screen, keyboard and mouse and apps upscale to take full advantage of the peripherals whilst your phone continues to do the essential phone things like taking/making calls.

    I've got about a year until upgrade, by which time Continuum should have bedded in (or disappeared) and I'd probably be willing to give it a try.

    Mine's the one with the small Continuum device in the pocket

    1. phil dude
      Linux

      Re: Long tern Android user

      I think that has been done for android/win?

      I have kdeconnect that lets me see my phone stuff on my desktop...silent phone and you can isolate the desktop (in Linux you can have many workspaces with different properties, for those that don't use it)

      I'm not sure I want my desktop being seen by my phone....at all!

      P.

  12. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Too many 'apps'

    It's a pity, we could do with more alternate phone Os choices.

    I was ordering a chinese takeaway a few days ago, the outlet encouraged the download of their app to make the order. Why would I want to clog up my phone with an app I might use once a every couple of months to order dinner?

    The worlds gone ape app-shit crazy...

    And I'm waiting for a convergence-ready Ubuntu Phone...

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Too many 'apps'

      "Why would I want to clog up my phone with an app I might use once a every couple of months to order dinner?"

      Wrong question. *They* would want that because their app won't let you order from the competition instead.

      "The worlds gone ape app-shit crazy."

      Yes, but once the hoi polloi learn that apps are only a censored version of something that is freely available on the internet, apps will go the way of AOL's restricted view of the internet.

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