Ever since Mozilla announced its new OS in July, there’s been an uncertainty about exactly when a device would be launched on it. Now, there’s a date, though a vague one. ZTE announced it will launch smartphone running on Firefox OS in the first quarter of 2013.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the company also plans on launching smartphones running on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 at the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013. Seven operators, including Sprint and Telefonica, have pledged support to Firefox OS, though neither operator has said exactly when they would begin offering devices. It is believed that ZTE is trying to move away from Android-based devices, especially following the Apple patent battles against manufacturers using Google’s OS.
Yankee Group Senior VP of Research Wally Swain comments
“I could say, ‘Another day, another alternative OS.’ This one at least we have been writing about since it first appeared as a concept device at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last February. At the time, Telefonica at least was putting it into the sub or at least near U.S.$100 smartphone sweepstakes. The idea was an operator-labeled device that could be priced competitively with feature phones and grey market devices from China. Telefonica touted it as the best way to increase smartphone penetration in emerging markets.
So ZTE’s announcement is a little puzzling. Are they planning to go to the low end? This is not a rational strategy for a company that aspires to number four or higher in the smartphone ‘league tables.’ Or are they planning to put the Firefox OS into a mid or high tier package?
Certainly ZTE will not have to worry about Google shutting them down (as it did with Acer) because the Firefox OS is rather obviously not a fork of Android: it is HTML5-based. For the same reason, the Chinese company will not have to worry about lawyers from Cupertino or Redmond spoiling the show. We will see more of these kinds of decisions made by marketing and engineering people just to avoid lawyers.
The real question is whether ZTE is just playing with the Firefox OS or really plans to add it to the stable along with Android and apparently WP8. That probably depends on a more fundamental question: will consumers take to a device that meets most of their needs and has an icon-driven interface but doesn’t have a brand-name OS?”
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