Tristan Nitot, Principal Evangelist, Mozilla is delivering an keynote speech on Day Three of the The Broadband World Forum is taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Ahead of the show we find out why Tristan believes there’s room for another mobile OS and what its key benefits are.
There are several dominant mobile OSs. Why do you think there is room for more?
Firefox OS marks a significant milestone for the mobile industry, enabling for the first time devices to be manufactured to totally open web standards. It creates a level playing field and provides an alternative to current, closed mobile ecosystems that lock developers and consumers in. The Web has always been a development platform and has millions of developers creating content for it. Apps powered by the open web solve the fragmentation and portability issues and also allow developers to have direct relationships with their customers. Firefox OS doesn’t run Firefox OS apps, it runs open Web apps. That’s an important difference between what we’re doing and proprietary mobile stacks today: we don’t want a competitive advantage for Mozilla; we want a competitive advantage for the Web.
In developed markets there is now ‘smartphone fatigue’, while much of the world has yet to even get online. How excited are you about the possibilities of bridging that digital gap?
Billions of users are expected to come online for the first time in the coming years and we believe that the incredible growth in the online population will be mobile-driven. But the current mobile landscape is dominated by closed systems and key players with a built-in preference for native apps over the Web, which is leading to a siloed mobile experience for users around the world. The Web is the right platform, and it needs to be open – not a dominant player’s version of the Web. This is why we are bringing the open Web itself to mobile devices.
Mozilla measures success on improving the overall health of the Web and advancing interests of users and developers. Firefox OS embodies our mobile Web ideals and represents what’s possible with HTML5, so we want to get it into consumers’ hands but also encourage adoption of open Web approaches throughout the mobile industry.
Firefox OS is aimed at developing markets. Why is there a need for an OS to target these markets and how will Firefox OS help?
Firefox OS delivers a rich, simple and affordable smartphone experience. This is especially important for those markets where consumers’ first or primary Web experience will be on mobile. Emerging regions are an excellent target market because smartphone penetration there is lower. But there are also still millions of people in more established markets such as Spain and Poland, who have not yet upgraded to a smartphone experience. While our initial launches and devices target predominantly first-time smartphone users, future products will also expand into other market segments. Mozilla believes the main benefits a Firefox OS device offers – performance, personalisation and price – will resonate with consumers anywhere.
Firefox OS is touted as being open source. Doesn’t Android already offer that?
Google makes some source code of Android available, but Android is essentially not open: All the APIs are designed by Google, and Google controls the direction of the technology. The source is available, but often only after they shipped.
Firefox OS is different and truly open. Working with standards bodies like the W3C, we provide the necessary standardised APIs to show how it is possible to run an entire device using open standards: Linux Kernel, device drivers and then the Web on top of it. This simplifies the technology and makes the integration point between the Web, the phone and apps much easier. From a developer perspective, we provide true cross-platform opportunities for application developers, most of who already develop in HTML5. For operators, this means that they can build unique user experiences, manage app distribution, loyalty and billing relationships. Both, operators and developers can participate meaningfully in the revenue stream and provide more opportunities to distribute and monetize their apps.
Users are only interested in OSs if there is an eco-system to go with it. Can Firefox match that?
Mozilla has a long history of putting users first. The Firefox browser changed browsing by offering a new level of choice and innovation online. Now we’re doing it all over again with Firefox OS and a Web standards-based ecosystem.
Instead of trying to create a new eco-system from scratch, just as proprietary alternatives to Android and iOS have tried, Firefox OS is using the open Web as its eco-system. The Web is a rich eco-system that consists of millions and millions of Web apps and Web pages, offering users unprecedented amounts of rich content which is not subject to the control and review of individual corporations.
Firefox OS also has built-in Adaptive App Search, a brand new concept for smartphone operating systems. While the normal phone gives users the exact same apps each time they turn it on, Firefox OS is always changing to offer exactly the apps users need at any moment in their life. Firefox OS is an extension of the Firefox experience. Users already know and love Firefox for desktop and Firefox for Android and can expect the same security, privacy, customisation and user control with Firefox OS.
How have the carriers reacted to Firefox OS? Who has reacted most positively?
From the very start of the initiative, we have received tons of great feedback and amazing support from companies across the mobile spectrum. 18 operators are currently welcoming the Firefox OS initiative and planning to roll out to their markets or have already started to roll out: América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telefónica, Telenor, Telstra, TMN and VimpelCom.
Why are you excited to come and speak at the Broadband World in October?
I’m always excited to get out there and hear what people think of Firefox OS and our efforts around bringing the open Web to the mobile space. I hope to meet like-minded people who share our vision of an open mobile Web that advances the whole industry, operators, developers and users alike. Mozilla has been arguing for some time that no one should be in control of the Web, and this should also apply to the mobile space. We need to take the qualities that make the Web open and bring those qualities to the mobile environment and every other computing environment that comes along.