CES News: Mozilla Makes a Smart Move to Smart TV
In the mid-2000s, buoyed by great word of mouth, Firefox became the browser of choice among heavy web users. The speed, tabs feature, variety of open source add ons and system stability far outstripped Internet Explorer, which still retained its status as the most used web browser, if not the most loved. But then Chrome came on the scene and in an Olympian run from behind beat out the competition within months. In September 2013 Chrome officially posted usage numbers double any competitor, capturing more than a third of the browser market. Not bad for a system that only very recently started to come pre-installed on some PC’s.
This competition among browsers is a subset of a similar race taking place in OS development. Though small operating systems have always tried to compete with Windows and Mac OS, it wasn’t until the growth of mobile devices that a new player, Android (News - Alert), has been able to capture market share.
Now Mozilla is throwing their hat in the ring, announcing at CES a new partnership with Panasonic to bring the Firefox OS to Panasonic (News - Alert) smart TV’s. For people who like familiarity between components the mention of the Firefox name could be a selling point, even if they are less familiar with the OS than the browser. Firefox OS is less than three years old, launched in 2011 as the Boot to Gecko project, but the open source nature of its development could work in its favor, making up in stability what it lacks in legacy.
Mozilla (News - Alert) has been testing the OS in overseas markets since early 2013 and working on mobile partnerships with device manufacturers including LG and Samsung (News - Alert). LG will not be using the Firefox OS on its smart TVs however; they also announced at CES an acquisition of webOS from HP and plans to use the system in smart TV development.
One draw to the Firefox OS could be WebRTC, a popular feature of the Firefox browser as more people get comfortable with voice and video connection. WebRTC via Smart TV does away with the need to connect a computer to a projector for a conference setting, or have people crowd around one small laptop screen. From business environments to families wanting to connect on the holidays, the ability to communicate through the TV is one more connectivity resource. If Firefox can develop reliable dual function capability their system will be even more flexible. Consider how fun it would be to watch the Super Bowl with your fun Uncle across the country who supports your opponent, or to game alongside your brother at college. A good new smart TV may give us that option.
Since Firefox is getting into the OS game late, they’re making a smart choice in branching out from the mobile market. Whether the open source offerings or Firefox name are enough to sway consumers to Panasonics will remain to be seen. If they develop their RTC options they could get a quick leg up on the competition.