Panasonic Teams Up With Mozilla For Firefox OS-Powered Smart TVs & Open Standards Push

Hours after LG unveiled its webOS-powered smart TV interface at CES, Panasonic has spilled the beans on its own mobile-inspired TV plans — announcing a partnership with Mozilla to use the latter’s Firefox OS (FFOS) and open Web standards ethos to open up the living room’s primary screen.

Firefox OS can currently be found cooling its heels on some low-end phone hardware — mostly in Europe and developing markets in South America. The HTML5-based mobile OS has a mountain to climb in competing with the dominance — and reach — of Google’s Android OS. So Mozilla seeking to push it beyond mobile hardware to expand the ecosystem’s reach makes some sense.

Whether the FFOS interface is going to be compelling enough to bag Panasonic smart TV buyers at the expense of other offerings, or for developers to rally behind an open platform banner for building TV apps and integration remains to be seen.

“Mozilla and Panasonic will work together to promote Firefox OS and its open ecosystem,”  the pair said in a press release today. “This development aims to deliver more expansive access into smart TVs by leveraging the HTML5 and Web technologies already prevalent on PCs, smartphones and tablets, to offer consumers more personalized and optimized access to Web and broadcasting content and Web services.”

Yuki Kusumi, Director of the TV Business Division of the AVC Networks Company of Panasonic, added in a statement that the partnership with Mozilla will be aimed at ramping up the interactivity and connectivity of its smart TVs — “both inside and outside of the home”.

“Panasonic had been expanding content and services dedicated for Panasonic TVs on our own portal site and our collaboration with Mozilla on Firefox OS will further accelerate various innovations and encourage many new services,” he added.

The forthcoming FFOS-powered Panasonic smart TVs will make use of Mozilla WebAPIs for hardware control and operation — meaning they will also be capable of monitoring and operating other devices, such as smart home appliances.

At the time of writing, Mozilla was unable to provide any screen shots of the FFOS TV interface but the pair talked up the potential offered by cross-leveraging Internet, cloud services and broadcast content, and using HTML5 to write native TV functions instead of having to create embedded programs.

With the launch of this new open platform, next generation smart TVs will gain full compatibility with Web technologies and HTML5 standards used for cloud services and various future networked devices, enabling data from Web services and devices to be easily mashed up on a single application. This ensures flexibility for developers to create new applications and services by using cross-leveraged content from the Internet and broadcasting.

In next generation smart TVs, basic functions, such as menus and EPGs (Electronic Program Guide) which are currently written as embedded programs, will be written in HTML5, making it possible for developers to easily create applications for smartphones or tablets to remotely access and operate the TV. In addition, through the Web services, next generation smart TVs can display personalized user interfaces, featuring the user’s favorites and even add new functions for multiple users sharing the same screen after devices are purchased.

“We are very excited to partner with Panasonic to bring Firefox OS to more people on more platforms. As we see more partners supporting Firefox OS and the open Web, Firefox OS helps solidify open Web standards for smart screen solutions,” added Dr. Li Gong, Senior Vice President of Mobile Devices and President of Asia Operations at Mozilla, in a statement.

“This new platform enables developers and service providers to create a wide range of applications and services to deliver a new user experience. We see a strong alignment between the visions of Mozilla and Panasonic, and by combining our collective expertise and know-how, we will create amazing products together.”

As well as committing to release next generation smart TVs powered by Firefox OS, Panasonic — itself also a mobile maker, albeit last year it announced would be withdrawing from the smartphone market to focus its manufacturing efforts elsewhere — said it will work together with Mozilla to promote the Firefox OS and its open ecosystem approach.