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January 23, 2013

Firefox OS launches developer preview smartphones

By Jody Ray Bennett, TMCnet Contributing Writer

The nonprofit organization that created the popular Firefox browser is one step closer to the completion of its Firefox OS project, an alternative to Android’s (News - Alert) low-powered smartphones built solely from open-source coding.

Mozilla Marketplace already has several products on the market, but the ultimate goal is for developers to be able to use the open-source code behind it to build their own apps for various markets. According to Yahoo! News, Mozilla has announced the launch of its developer preview phones, the Keon and the Peak, made in conjunction with Spanish smartphone producer Geeksphone.

The phones are designed for developers to preview their creations on the small screen, though the article notes that the release could be a signal for Mozilla’s own launch into the smartphone market. The apps coming out of Firefox OS are formatted to replicate apps in both look and touch, responding to touch-screen controls and accessing other phone features like GPS and vibration.

Nick Dillion, a senior analyst with Ovum (News - Alert) research firm, said:

"Much like Chrome OS in the desktop, Firefox OS is an interesting academic exercise that will test the limits of what is currently possible with mobile web technologies. However, a web-only Firefox OS will not facilitate a dramatic change in the approach to mobile application development. There is already good support for HTML5 web technologies on the existing major smartphone platforms, meaning that there is little need for another platform in order to drive their adoption forward.”

With a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 512 MB of RAM (News - Alert), a 3.5-inch touchscreen and 4 GB of flash memory, the Keon is described as Mozilla’s entry-level developer smartphone. It also comes equipped with a microSD card slot to add storage, and its basic 3-megapixel built-in camera lacks an LED flash. It has been compared to the 2010 iPhone (News - Alert) 4, minus the ability to play 3D games.

The Peak, with its dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, 4.3-inch IPS display, and an 8-megapixel camera with a flash, is referred to as the more modern of the two phone designs. The amount of RAM and flash storage in both the Peak and the Keon are equal, though the Peak also has a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.

 "Another significant barrier to the success of Firefox OS will be cost. The Firefox OS devices will be targeted at emerging markets, where they will be competing with low to mid-tier Android devices,” said Dillion. “From a consumer perspective, the Firefox OS devices will offer less functionality than comparable Android devices, without access to embedded Google services and the hundreds of thousands of third-party applications available on Android devices."

Both phones will work on AT&T (News - Alert) and T-Mobile networks in the United States because both are labeled as unlocked GSM smartphones.

Edited by Ashley Caputo
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