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Mozilla Kills Firefox Smartphone OS to Concentrate on Smart TVs

Mozilla meant well with Firefox OS, but ran into the one-two punch of Android and iOS.
Image: Mozilla

The dream of a third major smartphone platform (with all due respect to Microsoft's near-moribund efforts) is now dead.

Mozilla said Thursday morning that it will cease development of Firefox OS version 2.6 for mobile, which is currently set for release in late May. All Mozilla staff involvement with Firefox OS for smartphones will cease by the end of May.

"[The] circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones," said Mozilla's George Roter. Roter later offered a "massive and heartfelt thank you" to everyone who "poured [their] hearts" into the operating.

The May cutoff point shouldn't be too surprising given that Mozilla said in December it would shift the Firefox OS focus from smartphones to connected devices—so far, that means smart TVs, but Mozilla says it has about a dozen more projects in various states of development.

Mozilla first pitched Firefox OS as an open alternative to iOS and Android back in 2012. Unlike the two utterly dominant smartphone platforms—Android accounted for 81.2 percent of all smartphones sold in 2015 while the Apple iPhone accounted for 15.8 percent, according to research firm IDC—Firefox OS apps were written using HTML, meaning anyone with a modicum of web development experience could try their hand at creating apps. While a few lower-end smartphones were released in Europe, developers never were likely to spend too much time creating apps for such a small platform.

At any rate, shifting focus to smart TVs may ultimately be a better results for everyday consumers. Smart TV apps are generally pretty crummy in my experience—they're slow and generally lack the features of the smartphone counterparts. In fact, I panic every time I accidentally launch the app selection menu on my Sony smart TV—here's 30 seconds of waiting I'll never get back. Any efforts made to improve upon that subpar experience are more than welcome.