The open-source Firefox operating system for mobile devices took another step forward this week with the preview of version 3.0 of its simulator for testing apps. The simulator can be run on Windows, Mac or Linux computers.
The first Firefox OS simulator was unveiled in November. The newest version is still a work in progress, and Mozilla has said it welcomes feedback and suggestions for fixes.
Several new functions are available in this version, including the ability to display in portrait or landscape views, and push to device, which allows apps to be transferred to a Firefox OS device via USB. There's also the ability to test GPI in simulation mode, validation for missing properties needed by devices, and other testing functions.
In January, two developer phones running Firefox OS were released by Mozilla. Called Keon and Peak, they were made by GeeksPhone, a Spanish manufacturer, working in collaboration with the carrier Telefonica.
The Keon uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 CPU running at 1GHz, has a 3.5-inch HVGA multitouch screen, and features a 3-megapixel camera. The Peak has a Snapdragon S4 at 1.2 GHz, a 4.3-inch screen, and an 8-megapixel camera.
Last month, Mozilla launched its Firefox operating system, which it had previously announced, and a number of manufacturers and carriers have said they will support the platform. LG, ZTE, Alcatel One Touch, Huawei and Sony have all said they intend to release Firefox OS handsets. Carriers that will support the OS include Sprint, Etisalat in Africa and the Middle East, Deutsche Telekom, China Unicorn and Telefonica.
Mozilla has at least two major angles that could help boost its chances to take third or fourth place in the mobile operating system fight that is dominated by the leaders, Google's Android and Apple's iOS.
HTML5, Emerging Markets
One angle is to that, instead of native apps written for a specific platform, the platform is designed for Web apps written in HTML5 technologies that are already used on the Web. This will allow a large number of developers with Web skills to write apps for the platform, and for those apps to run with few modifications on other HTML5-supporting platforms. Additionally, Mozilla is empowering the OS to provide HTML5 apps with access to device functions, just as native apps have.
Related to this approach is distribution of apps by app makers. Instead of requiring that all apps for its platform be distributed through its own store, as Apple does, Mozilla will allow developers to distribute their apps through their Web sites or other app stores, in addition to a Firefox OS app store.
A second angle is that a Firefox OS smartphone is expected to sell for substantially less than $200, even before carrier subsidies, according to at least one manufacturer. This could make the devices very appealing in the markets that have the strongest potential for growth in smartphone sales, developing countries. Mozilla said that Firefox OS devices will initially be targeted at users in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela.