The launch of two Firefox OS phones marks an exciting moment in Mozilla’s mission to promote openness and innovation on the Web.
India’s fast growing smartphone market is already under the Android spell with the Google operating system (OS) capturing over 80% of the market. Following closely behind is Apple’s iOS with over 10% of the market. Rest are trudging and trying to reach the mammoth target to include more users under their wing.
It is in these trying times, the Mozilla Foundation has launched its first OS in India with the Intex Cloud FX and the Spice Fire One Mi-FX 1.The firm had already promised in this year’s Mobile World Congress that it would come up with smartphones. It had announced to bring out cheap smartphones at $25 after it sealed a deal with a little-known Chinese firm named Spreadtrum.
After trying out the OS on both devices, several questions remained unanswered and that is when we got talking to Mozilla and the handset makers. The question that arises first in the head is why bring out a phone that has no 3G? Why take the risk of making the cost so less along with meagre specifications that consumers may not take a second look after reading about the product? Is it really possible for the OS to run on such low specifications? Will not the consumers be ready to pay a little more for a device with better specs?
Yes, we got the answer to these questions thanks to Mozilla and Intex. But to understand all of this we need to sync ourselves with Mozilla’s vision and strategy. Mozilla rightly has figured that Indians are looking to cut down their spend on smartphones as the sector is slowly edging towards saturation. It has designed the OS in ways that cuts down on battery usage, consumes less memory, can work on smaller RAMs and in turn reduce the cost of the hardware.
“Our OS is smaller, faster and has the ability to function with smaller memory capacity,” said Wayne Chang, senior technical account manager, Firefox OS and Marvin Khoo, product manager, Firefox OS. Intex seconded Mozilla and Keshav Bansal, marketing director of Intex Technologies said that both parties had agreed that the phone would be targeted at residents from smaller cities rather than metro cities. “From the onset we were looking at affordable smartphones and not a very high-end one, so it made sense for us to provide the best hardware in that price range,” Bansal added.
Mozilla has also confirmed that the device makers were deliberately told to reduce hardware specifications as it would prove that the OS can simply run on much lower specs and provide good performance in comparison to other OS. So don’t get alarmed by the low specs. “Our OS can work on 1/6th the RAM used by rival OS,” said Chang. “This is one of our strategy as it brings the cost of the device down as we can run on lower range hardware without compromising on performance,” he added.
Coming to the non-availability of 3G, Mozilla said that in comparison to apps running on rival OS, Mozilla OS apps are smaller and uses less disk space which essentially means less downloads so the 3G option has been ruled out for now. Plus, since the phones are targeted towards the smaller cities, both the device maker and the OS maker, wanted to reduce the burden of the rising 3G bills. But there is no need to worry as Mozilla confirmed that it plans to run its OS on high-end phones too. “We are already planning to roll out our OS on high-end phones keeping in mind privacy concerns that we have always kept as a priority,” Khoo said.