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Mozilla To Shut Down Firefox Mobile OS

Citing a desire to gain a foothold in the growing market for the Internet of Things, the leadership of Mozilla said it is ceasing development efforts on its Firefox smartphone operating system. Mozilla is ending development on Firefox OS for smartphones after version 2.6 is released in May.

The development team that had been working on the OS will now work on initiatives related to connected devices and with other Mozilla teams, according to Mozilla.

The company is focusing its efforts on the Internet of Things, according to an e-mail sent to Mozilla’s mailing list yesterday by George Roter, the company’s head of core contributors. The move is intended to “pivot from ‘Firefox OS’ to ‘connected devices’ and to a focus on exploring new product innovations in the IoT space,” according to the e-mail.

That means that as of March 29, the Mozilla Marketplace will no longer accept submissions for Android, desktop and tablet. Mozilla will remove all apps that don’t support Firefox OS, although Firefox OS apps will continue to be accepted into next year. Mozilla hasn’t yet said when it will stop accepting those apps.

Writing Was on the Wall

The announcement didn’t come as a complete surprise, however. At a developer event in December, Ari Jaaksi, Mozilla’s senior vice president of Connected Devices, hinted that Mozilla’s work with smartphones would likely be winding down. “We weren’t able to offer the best user experience possible and so we will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels,” Jaaksi said at the time.

Firefox OS had its start as part of Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko project in July 2011, with the goal of breaking the chokehold Android and iOS had (and still have) on the mobile market. The following year, Firefox OS debuted with TCL Communication Technology and ZTE as manufacturing partners.

Accentuating its open source component, the OS set itself apart as a Web-based operating system, providing apps via the Internet instead of natively. Mozilla hoped that the idea would scale enough to let it run on a variety of devices. Consumers never warmed to Firefox OS, however, even though Mozilla added features and functionality on a regular basis.

In a blog post yesterday, Jaaksi lauded the Mozilla team and community for its work on Firefox OS for smartphones, but conceded that “the circumstances were not there for Mozilla to win in the commercial smartphone game.”

Projects In Development

Mozilla’s existing OS resources will go toward smart TVs and possibly other devices. The company’s Connected Devices team, meanwhile, has been testing a new product innovation process with staff to identify its 2016 IoT product programs.

The product programs must demonstrate clear consumer value throughout the development cycle, Roter said. So far Mozilla has three projects that have passed the first phase of development, including SmartTV, which promises an independent and customizable Web experience on big screens and across devices. About a dozen other projects are pending review.

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