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1/22/2013
01:43 PM
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Mozilla Reveals Firefox OS Developer Preview Phone

Developers invited to hacking events later this month to encourage app creation for open source mobile OS.

In preparation for the introduction of Firefox OS for mobile phones later this year, Mozilla has announced the imminent arrival of Firefox OS developer preview phones.

The devices, intended for software developers versed in Web development technology, are expected to be available in February. No price has yet been disclosed and there's no way yet to pre-order the phones. Expect ordering details to be provided shortly.

The Firefox OS developer preview phone is being designed by Geeksphone, based in Madrid, Spain, in partnership with Telefonica, one of seven mobile carrier partners that has expressed public support for Mozilla's mobile operating system. The others include Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia and Telenor.

The phone sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 1-Ghz CPU, a 3.5-inch HVGA Multi-touch screen, a 3-MP camera, 4 GB ROM, 512 MB RAM, MicroSD and MicroUSB slots, 802.11n Wi-Fi support, light and proximity sensors, an accelerometer, and GPS. Because it comes unlocked, users can supply their own SIM cards.

[ Mozilla is out to save the Web. Read more at Mozilla's Firefox OS Seeks Innovation Without Gatekeeping. ]

These specifications don't quite measure up to current top-of-line smartphones, but that's the point: Mozilla wants to avoid competing directly with Apple and Google by targeting potential customers in emerging markets who haven't already committed to a smartphone platform.

Firefox OS is a mobile operating system based on open Web standards. In addition to running existing Web applications through the mobile Firefox browser, it allows developers to create installable mobile Web apps -- available via the Firefox Marketplace -- that can interact with mobile phone hardware, to make calls, send text messages, or access GPS data, for example.

To help encourage developers to create mobile Web apps that take advantage of Firefox OS, Mozilla will later this month host Firefox OS App Days, a series of hacking events to focus attention on its new platform, just like Google is doing with Project Glass.

Stormy Peters, director of websites and developer engagement at Mozilla, said in a blog post that the primary reasons for developers to create Firefox OS apps are to keep the Web open, for the simplicity of dealing with a single familiar technology stack, and to be free from the constraints of a vendor-controlled ecosystem.

That message is sure to resonate with idealists. But it remains to be seen how well it will woo commercially minded mobile developers who have already traded their freedom for access to iOS users, or those who have a bit more autonomy under the more relaxed Android regime.

Further complicating matters, Mozilla can expect to face competition from other open source mobile operating systems, including Canonical's Ubuntu and Tizen, backed by Intel and Samsung, assuming some mobile carriers sign on.

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