Can you name a single software project that was backed by a consortium of wireless operators that ended up being a successful product? No, you can’t. So why is it that the internet is going nuts over the news that Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, and Sprint are going to back Mozilla’s new mobile operating system, Firefox OS?
What is Firefox OS anyway and how is it different compared to other platforms? Mozilla is trying to make a mobile operating system that’s entirely driven by web technologies. To put that into plain English, they want to make an OS where every application is written in HTML and CSS. Where have we heard this before? Oh right, back in 2009 when Palm announced webOS. Android apps are written in Java, iOS apps are written in Objective-C, but Mozilla thinks the world should go HTML for what on the surface appears to be ideological reasons.
Let’s say you’re a developer, why would you want to make an app for a platform that has no ecosystem built around it, no central app store, and no way to monetize your work? Say you’re a handset vendor, you’re already struggling with razor thin margins making Android phones, what cost benefits does Firefox OS offer? And let’s just say you’re an operator, isn’t your network being strained because of all those new smartphone users eating up data? Why are you throwing money at an open source software project instead of paying Ericsson or Huwaei or Nokia Siemens Network to put up another cell tower?
Look, competition is great, but what Mozilla is trying to do here is nothing more than one giant experiment. Operators are supporting the project because they want to make it look like they’re good at something other than erecting antennas. They’re pissed Google is building a tight relationship with their subscribers, but you know what?