The open-source Firefox operating system from Mozilla, which is beginning to roll out on smartphones, may soon have another member in its small but growing family of devices. Mozilla and Foxconn have announced a press event for Monday, where they reportedly will unveil a Firefox tablet.
The companies have only confirmed that the event will be held in Taipei City, Taiwan, but have declined to reveal any other information. But the Reuters news service, citing a Taiwan-based news source, said a tablet announcement is likely. The event takes place on June 3, just before the opening of the big Computex trade show in Taipei on June 4.
Foxconn, an electronics maker-for-hire whose parent company is Hon Hai Precision Industry, has gotten most of its revenue from assembling devices for Apple and for Android device makers. Last quarter, Hon Hai's net profit dipped as sales of Apple's iPhones and iPads started to slow down. In 2012, Hon Hai reported revenue growth of 13 percent, compared with 53 percent in 2011.
In April, Hon Hai signed an agreement with Microsoft that enabled the Taiwan-based company to make devices utilizing Microsoft's patents for the Android and Chrome operating systems.
Firefox phones from LG, Alcatel One Touch, and ZTE are expected to be released this summer in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela, with other models expected in the following months from Huawei, Sony and others. The strategy has been to focus first on emerging markets, where smartphone market share is smaller than in more-developed areas.
However, a Mozilla executive recently told news media that the Firefox OS will also begin appearing on higher-end smartphones, including at least one model from Sony. While a Firefox phone for the U.S. has not yet been announced, most observers do not expect to see one in this market until next year or later. Carrier partners include Telefonica, Etisalat, Smart, Spring, Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telekom, China Unicorn and Telenor.
One key difference from Android that Mozilla hopes will help drive manufacturer and carrier adoption is that the OS is fully open source with an open development process, while Android, although also open source, is controlled by Google. Mozilla has pointed out that handset makers or carriers have made only relatively minor adjustments to the Android OS, such as interface modifications.
Firefox is attempting to take fourth or possibly even third place, after the smartphone platform duopoly of Android and Apple. But Firefox is not the only open-source alternative to Google's Android. There's also Ubuntu Touch, which is emphasizing its ability to provide the same OS on mobile, laptop and desktop devices, and Samsung's Tizen.
Another facet of the Firefox strategy is that the platform is designed specifically for Web apps written in HTML5, which is already widely used on the Web. The idea is that developers can adapt existing Web HTML5 apps, in addition to interface modifications if needed. Unlike other Web apps for mobile devices, HTML5 apps for Firefox OS devices will have access to core device functions, such as camera.