Firefox OS Emerges

Last week at CES, details of Firefox OS, Mozilla’s all-web, mobile OS, began to emerge, and wow has it come a long way since that early build of B2G that I fumbled with on the GSM Nexus S Rich (@rmanalan) sent me last year.

I’ve had great hopes for Firefox OS, since it is built on open, web technologies and doesn’t require learning a new SDK or working within a controlled ecosystem. I’m not alone, as some see it, and other new mobile OSes, as a harbinger of doom for closed app stores.

That may seem laughable now, but so did the idea that nascent Android platform could ever take substantial market share from iPhone. That was less than three years ago, and today, Android is a juggernaut.

Images from Mozilla

Images from Mozilla

Mobile moves fast, and Mozilla’s plans for Firefox OS make good sense, i.e. focus on emerging markets where a smartphone is a computer. Not a companion device, but the user’s primary computing device and window to the all-powerful internets. Turns out that the smartphone, not the OLPC, may be the best way to extend computing to the World.

The focus on devices that are now under-powered for Android is also very smart. I’ve thought for a while now that there is an emerging market of misfit devices, and that market continues to grow as Android advances. Newer versions of Android only make it onto a handful of existing devices, leaving some people on older versions, without upgrades, but still under contract.

Firefox OS can benefit them too, although for the time being, the modding process remains a warranty-voiding dark art.

Even so, Firefox OS turns out to be portable to a pretty wide variety of devices. Over beers recently, fellow Portlander, friend and Firefox OS project manager, Dietrich Ayala (@dietrich) mentioned that he’d combed the XDA-Developers forums and was surprised to find how many people were porting Firefox OS to their devices.

Check out his findings; it’s a pretty impressive list.

So, while porting isn’t an easy option today, I expect that Mozilla will continue to make inroads with Firefox OS, both in emerging markets and eventually through orphaned devices that are stuck on older versions of Android, too under-powered to get the new hotness.

This is all good, and at some point this year, I’ll probably try porting it to the Xoom or maybe the Nexus S so I can kick the tires.

What do you think of Firefox OS? Would you consider flashing an old phone with it to have a new OS?

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