The Cluster of Tech

Firefox OS 2013 market share pegged at 1%, platform will need time if it wants to compete with Android

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Google’s Android smartphone OS is facing a lot of challengers in the low-cost smartphone segment, from Huawei, ZTE, Samsung and Nokia at the vendor end to Mozilla coming from its position in browser software. But for the short term it appears that there is little for Android to worry about from any single contender. Research out today from Strategy Analytics notes that one of these, Firefox OS, Mozilla’s mobile effort, will only sit on 1% of all global smartphone shipments in 2013, versus 67% for Android, and it could take up to two years for it to turn that around.

firefox os

To be fair, Firefox has made some headway with carriers and OEMs with its low-cost focused smartphone OS — those that backed the company’s mobile OS efforts in July include Telefonica, Sprint, Deutsche Telekom and ZTE. The low-cost, sub-$100 device smartphone segment is a growing one, with Deloitte projecting there will be 500 million of these sold this year alone.

But that growth, for now, is a story with Android as the protagonist. Strategy Analytics says Firefox OS will continue to remain “niche” because of low brand awareness, a limited retail presence (especially in the U.S.) and an ecosystem of developers that is still too small, says the analyst group, challenges that will also give it problems growing market share in tablets, too — an area where it also hopes to make some headway against the iPad but also lower-cost Android-based tablets.

The first handsets built on Firefox OS are expected to come out in the first half of 2013. They will be targeting the low-cost smartphone segment rather than doing battle at the higher end with Apple and Samsung’s Galaxy line. That is an area that up to now has been largely dominated by Android, with phones costing as little as $100 or less without any subsidies. Among other challenges, Nokia is trying to take its still-strong position in the feature phone market and leverage it better in the smartphone segment, where it has been struggling for years.

Firefox OS, like Android, is open-source and rather than looking at creating a native ecosystem it is putting its eggs into the HTML5 mobile web basket. But is coming into the low-cost market at a time when Google has cornered it in just about every region. “Overcoming Android will not be an easy task,” says Neil Mawston, analyst with Strategy Analytics.

But he also points out that this doesn’t mean Firefox is doomed — just that Mozilla and its partners will need to remain patient to see whether it takes off. “It took Android just two years from commercial launch to overtake Symbian and go from new entrant to established global leader, so things can change extremely fast in the smartphone industry,” Mawston told TechCrunch. Android launched commercially in Q4 2008 and was number-1 by Q4 2010, according to SA’s calculations.

And the challenges are not exclusive to Firefox OS. “At the moment, none of the emerging smartphone platforms, such as Firefox and Tizen, has the hardware, software and services capabilities to match Android or Apple,” he continues.

But as the smartphone market continues to grow, it will see further price pressure, especially from developing markets full of first-time smartphone buyers. That presents a  chance for growth. “[Firefox and Tizen] are cost-competitive and this gives them an opportunity to make some gains among price-sensitive mass-market consumers in the early phases of their strategies.”

Still, he notes that new platforms like Firefox OS and Tizen are “Android challengers rather than Android killers at this stage.”



One thought on “Firefox OS 2013 market share pegged at 1%, platform will need time if it wants to compete with Android

  1. Truth be told, the FIREFOX OS was actually created March 11th, 2011 when Firefox was used to create the desktop environment on a Linux platform. The package was named Pocket Rocket Linux and relied on a Linux Core from the folks at Tiny Core Linux – a very fast, responsive, reliable operating system that had developed a good forum community of some pretty sharp techs who’s philosophy is basically “SMALL, RELIABLE AND FAST ARE GOOD THINGS.” Tiny Core’s biggest problem was that many users had to be Techs to get it to use aps like Skype or Flash and some of the installation issues kept a lot of non-techs away, choosing small packages like Puppy that had a nicer desktop and a few more built in applications. Because it was designed to be the smallest, fastest, most reliable Linux distribution, everything in Tiny Core was modular, so users had to cobble together a functional system and even more work was required to get a functional office environment.

    Pocket Rocket Linux solved all of that with a warm, fuzzy interface – a very sexy desktop, a full suite of office tools, Flash, VNC and more, all based on a Firefox desktop, which could also be run from Opera.

    Its doubtful that the new Firefox OS – aka “The Authentic Firefox OS” – will run as fast as Pocket Rocket Linux on top of Tiny Core. Additionally, Pocket Rocket Linux runs on desktops, laptops, tablets and any PDA that can host Linux, whereas it appears Firefox OS will only be offered for the PDA/Tablet market; especially Androids, though that’s sure to change, and with the popularity of Firefox, it could eventually make its way to the desktop world.

    But will it be as small, fast and reliable as Tiny Core or Pocket Rocket Linux? Thus far, no operating system, whether you include Windows, Mac or any/all Linux distributions, has beat Tiny Core’s speed and reliability, let alone the level of experience and quality of the Techs developing Tiny Core and now Pocket Rocket Linux, and its unlikely any OS will beat them any time soon. That said, challengers in the world of computers often bring wonderful gifts to users, so you never know how this will play out.

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