Mozilla has recently announced that they are dropping their partnerships with smartphone manufacturers who sell handsets that run Firefox OS. Google's Android operating system has once again proven itself to be a dominant mobile OS.
In the recent months and years, there were several mobile operating systems that hoped to take on Android. Some of these include the Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU) Cloud OS, Alibaba (NASDAQ: BABA) Amos and Samsung's (NASDAQ: SSNLF) Tizen.
Firefox OS's Downfall Against Android
BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY) also gave up on its own mobile operating system. The new BlackBerry Priv even runs the Android operating system.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is still hanging on with their Windows Phone experience with a single digit percentage in global market share. The Redmond-based tech giant is betting big on their new Windows 10 OS that aims to provide users with a seamless integration of both desktop and mobile devices that runs the operating system.
Mozilla previously partnered with some of the big carriers across the globe such as Deutsche Telekom, Verizon, Telenor, China Unicom and Telefonica. The Firefox OS was used by smartphone makers Huawei, ZTE, LG, Alcatel and other small-time manufacturers as well.
Firefox OS was aimed at providing the lower end of the market with affordable smartphones that can at least be on par with some of the Android handsets available then. However, there were still smartphones that were on the same price level and ran Android.
Android's Dominance Through Familiarity and Popularity
Consumers have been familiar with the Android operating system for a long time now. The problem is that consumers choose to buy phones with familiar interfaces, instead of having to figure out how a new OS works on their phone.
In addition, troubleshooting is also easier on an operating system with millions of users. A user can encounter a bug that is also encountered by hundreds or thousands others. This means that the bug will most likely be remedied since there are more users that could pressure a manufacturer to fix it.
There is also the issue of customizability. Most Android-powered smartphones have an XDA community that develops custom ROMs, tweaks and fixes. If a smartphone has a decent following, such as the ASUS Zenfone 2, it is more likely that there will be developers that will shell out content.
Firefox OS is also open sourced. However, there isn't much to explore especially if there are only a few who support it. Sure, it could still be well into hundreds and thousands, but one cannot deny that there is a larger party down the neighbourhood.
Firefox OS vs Android and Apple's iOS
Besides Android, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) also has a large following with their iOS platform through iPads and iPhones. It's undeniable that Android and iOS both dominate the smartphone market share.
Both do have their own problems in their backyard. Android is filled with ugly adware and vulnerability problems, while iOS is often criticized for being uptight and too close-sourced.
Android also has the fragmentation problem. With so many smartphone manufacturers and too many variants available in the market, it's hard to keep every model up to date with the latest software and fix.
Google rolls out security updates, such as for the Stagefright vulnerability, but it doesn't reach every single one of the Android devices across the globe. The updates on individual smartphones will also be modified by the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and mobile carriers. This is because each one of the smartphones have different hardware, which most likely calls for different codes.
While Firefox OS smartphones do not necessarily have that problem, it is also their weakness. Since there are just a few consumers who bought them, business is not good for both Mozilla and its partners.
Firefox OS Lost to Android's Global Market Share
The International Data Corporation forecasts that Android smartphones will grow up to 81.2 percent share in the global market and 15.8 percent for the iOS platform. Microsoft's Windows Phones share will be at 2.2 percent, according to The Register. All of the other operating systems will have a total market share of just 0.8 percent.
Mozilla will still continue to improve Firefox OS, but they announced that they will no longer be designing smartphones. Interested developers can still work on their own versions of the open-source operating system. It could be expected that the OS will still be present in non-smartphone devices such as smart TVs and other IoT products in the near future.
Firefox OS and Acadine Technologies
In fact, a Hong Kong-based startup is already planning to launch their own version of the Firefox OS. Led by Mozilla's former president, Acadine Technologies is developing the H5OS.
Acadine Chief Executive Li Gong told CNET: "We are definitely working with a good number of partners who desire a non-Android OS to power their mobile devices. We are now the frontrunner in terms of choice in this space."
The tech startup already has $100 million in funding from the Tsinghua Unigroup International subsidiary that is being controlled by both Beijing's Tsinghua University and the Chinese government. Acadine is currently developing the H5OS while currently seeking another funding round from interested investors on the other parts of the world.
Gong said that they are not a China-backed company. He called Acadine as a "pure Silicon Valley-style startup". The main reason that they started in Hong Kong is that they think there are "geopolitical factors" that may have a significant effect in their business when they hit the global market in the future.
There is no expected launch date for Acadine's smartphones. The startup has also been quiet regarding how many smartphones they will launch or what the specs are. It could be expected that updates will be announced once they finish their second round of funding.
Mozilla may have done the right thing by dropping their smartphone business considering that Android is still going strong. Even if it does weaken, which is highly unlikely, iOS will most likely gain ground instead of other mobile operating systems.