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Mozilla’s Firefox OS to emerge as a Dark Horse in the Android-iOS Knockdown?

With the tech-giants- Apple, Google and Microsoft locked in an indeterminable battle of smartphone supremacy-  splurging millions of dollars on patent-designs, highly-paid engineers and rigorous marketing,  in a forlorn attempt to deliver a near-perfect operating system, Mozilla looks to take a seat at the high-stake table with its own smartphone software.

Mozilla, the non-profit organisation behind the open source Firefox browser has released the early version of its modern-looking smartphone operating system. The OS interface derives its look-and-feel from elements of leading smartphone operating systems like iOS, Android or Windows. That makes it easily adaptable to the main-stream audience, who won’t feel that they are switching to a zombie prototyped OS.

The reason behind Mozilla switching gears is the loss of market-share in web-browser wars. With Google Chrome taking the front seat by becoming the most popular web browser, Mozilla needs to buckle up if it wants to survive in the market. Another reason to worry for Mozilla is the lack of capital, as it made a modest $121m from revenues in 2011, puny in comparison to Apple, Google or Microsoft who enjoy sales of more than $200b every year.

Meanwhile, as Mozilla loses grounds on PCs, its corporate rivals are invading the smartphone segment, as they realize how there is going to be a unilateral shift in the computing platforms in the coming years.

“A lot of the innovation, or even most of it, that we’re seeing now is happening in smartphones and tablets,” said Ian Fogg, a mobile analysts at IHS Screen Digest.

Mozilla’s mission though was to popularise its web-standards, it realises that just creating alternative browser apps for different OS isn’t going to do the trick, for most people do not look beyond their proprietary web-browser. Besides, as Google plays soft when it comes to hosting mobile apps in Play Store, Mozilla has succeeded in releasing its Android version of its elite web-browser. However, that’s not going to happen with the likes of Apple and Microsoft, who are vary of the competition and would exercise strict control over what third party apps can achieve.

So, the way out- Mozilla decides to bake its own bread.

Though like Android, Mozilla’s OS also would be based on Linux-Kernel, it won’t facilitate hosting of “native apps”. In other words, it won’t have an API library, which basically means it won’t have apps that would be specifically developed for it. Alternatively, Mozilla would adapt the web coding standard, HTML5 to let developers create apps. As HTML5 is a universally acceptable language, any operating system would be able to run the web apps. This apparently is no innovation as smartphone operating systems can run HTML5 based apps even now, but they lack appropriate software and hardware support, which makes them lag behind “native apps”. Though this would make app-development simpler, how developers would earn from it, still remains an unrevealed mystery.

Mozilla has already won support for Firefox OS from a key constituency: Mobile networks. Companies like Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Sprint, and Telefónica were already on board to back the new venture from Mozilla.

“As billions of users are expected to come online for the first time in the coming years, it is eminent to deliver a compelling smartphone experience that anyone can use,” said Gary Kovacs, Mozilla’s chief executive.

Mozilla remains overt in its focus to deliver a compelling smartphone OS at an affordable price. Hence, it won’t attempt to outdo Android or iOS, but it looks to shun the ‘only-for rich’ tag associated with sophisticated OS (Jellybeans, iOS5, Windows 8) and wishes to create its own distinct space in the smartphone segment.

On an ending note, we leave you to answer a rather brusque question:

Would this ‘Dark Knight’ rise? Does it have what it takes or is it too early to draw any lines?