Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser has officially jumped into the mobile operating system game with the debut of its new Firefox OS here at Mobile World Congress 2013. The HTML 5-powered operating system was built entirely using open Web standards and, according to Mozilla, will allow carriers to customize the operating system's interface and create unique localized services for the customers.
While the Firefox OS runs on HTML 5 that doesn't mean it will be unable to function without a Web connection, something Mozilla representatives made a concerted effort to stress to those at its press event. Devices running the OS, Mozilla representatives said, will be fully capable of saving information, running apps and performing all of the functions an Android or iOS smartphone can with or without a Web connection.
The Firefox OS will come with a standard set of smartphone apps including a dialer, messaging and email services, a camera app, location services and more. Naturally, Firefox OS will also come loaded with the Firefox Web browser and the company's own Firefox Marketplace app store, which will include apps like Facebook, Twitter, AccuWeather, Airbnb, SoundCloud and many others.
Apps in the Firefox Marketplace will be broken up into categories ranging from games, news and media to productivity and business. Downloaded apps will be tied to a user's online profile that they will then be able to access across different devices and platforms. During an on-stage demo apps like Cut the Rope, MLB.com at Bat and others all ran smoothly on ZTE's new Firefox-powered Open.
From a functionality standpoint, Mozilla says Firefox OS will sport its own unique features including a contextual search that lets users search for information in apps and on the Web at the same time, something that's not available through native apps. Mozilla cited an example of a user searching for their favorite musician and getting results to buy their favorite song, concert tickets or listen to tracks from the artist.
Partners working with Mozilla to bring Firefox OS to consumers include ZTE, LG, Alcatel, Huawei and Qualcomm. Carrier partners in the U.S. so far are limited to Sprint, though international partners are already lining up. So when can you expect to see this new mobile OS in the U.S.? Currently, Mozilla is sticking to a 2014 release date, though there aren't many details beyond that.