Step by step, Firefox OS is moving along in its quest to gain a foothold in the mobile platform wars. This week, Firefox's parent Mozilla released an updated simulator, and a Firefox OS phone has gone on sale in another country.
On Thursday, Mozilla issued version 4.0 of its Firefox OS simulator, which runs as an add-on to the Firefox browser.
The updated simulator includes a new drop-down menu for each app's dashboard, where the receipt type can be selected. The simulator can download a test receipt from Mozilla's Marketplace receipt service, and then reinstall an app to simulate that situation with a customer.
Connect, Style Editor
A Connect button for each app will display an app-specific developer toolbox, saving time in finding information for a given app. A Style Editor tool allows editing of an app's CSS style sheets, remotely, and touch events can now be simulated with mouse clicks. Additionally, developers can completely reset an app through a keyboard command, which will erase any information that's been saved locally.
Developers' interest in the Firefox OS platform is one of the advantages its backers are counting on. The open-source, Linux-based OS is designed specifically for apps built with standards-based HTML5 technologies so that, theoretically, developers could readily adapt apps they've already built for the Web, or can utilize their Web skills to build apps for Firefox OS devices.
Carrier Telefonica, one of the first backers of the platform, released the first Firefox OS device, the ZTE Open, in Spain last week. Now, Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Mobile will release the Alcatel One Touch Fire for Poland, with online sales beginning Friday and sales at physical retailers starting early next week. Releases are expected in the next few months in Hungary, Greece, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and other emerging markets, which is where most Firefox OS devices are expected to be marketed.
Coming to Germany
However, Deutsche Telekom also announced on Thursday that the Alcatel One Touch Fire with Firefox OS would also be released in Germany, the most prosperous European country, by the fall. This could indicate that at least one of the platform's carrier backers has a growing confidence in the platform, and is prepared to go beyond offering a low-priced smartphone in developing countries to going head-to-head with the dominant platforms, Google's Android and Apple's iOS.
Al Hilwa, program director for Application Development Software research at IDC, said the Firefox OS "pegs a lot of its success to the Web apps platform," but that Mozilla still needs to "work on the tools to make them friendlier to developers," since the current development environment is "very fragmented."
He noted that Firefox OS phones are going to be priced very inexpensively, "replacing feature phones" in some markets. In general, Hilwa said, developers are going to wait to really jump on board the platform until there is a significant installed base.
"The platform has some legs," he said, "but I don't see them conquering the world anytime soon."