Firefox OS is Mozilla’s attempt to inject some open competition into the mobile space, which is pretty much a two-horse race at this point, with feature phones slowly losing more and more ground to smartphones based on Android and iOS. Mozilla’s mobile efforts make the move to a key market today, with the official Latin American debut of the Alcatel OneTouch Fire and ZTE Open.
The ZTE Open previously debuted through Movistar in Spain at the beginning of July and Movistar is behind bringing these two devices to Columbia and Venezuela. Pricing for both is at COP 199,900 outright in Columbia (roughly $100 U.S.), and at around $279 for the Alcatel, or $184 for the ZTE in Venezuela on a contract.
For those who haven’t been following, Firefox OS is a smartphone operating system based entirely on open web standards that Mozilla is positioning as a more open alternative for powering low-cost and mid-range devices in high-growth emerging markets. There’s little information available on the progress of Firefox OS’ European debut, but Latin America is arguably the more important market in terms of proving whether or not Mozilla has any hope of gaining a foothold among the ruling giants of mobile.
Firefox is also unique in focusing a big chunk of the OS functionality around search, and eschewing the need for a lot of dedicated apps. The whole point is to show off what a phone can do with web standards, so that’s not surprising, but it’s an interesting sales proposition for a company looking to compete with heavily entrenched app-based ecosystems.
The potential for Firefox OS is that it can provide OEMs and carriers hungry for a more malleable mobile platform an option that doesn’t involve the compromises that come with working with the incumbents in Android and Google. Apple and Google are in a powerful negotiating position, which makes carriers somewhat subservient to the platform providers, whereas as Firefox OS with its open standards gives carriers back a lot of control over the experience.
Now that the phone is available in a few more markets, hopefully we’ll start to see what kind of a dent it can make in worldwide mobile usage stats, if any, and that’ll tell us whether Mozilla’s attempt to challenge the big guys from the bottom up is working.