Mozilla gives up on Firefox OS, its mobile-turned IoT operating system

Posted on Feb 3 2017 - 5:19pm by Huzoor Bux

The Alcatel One Touch Fire was one of the first phones with Firefox OS

Image: emily price/mashable

Released in 2013, Firefox OS was supposed to pick up where webOS left off, with a mobile operating system built on open web standards like HTML5.

Unlike Apple and Google who chased performance gains with both software and hardware updates, Firefox OS phones sat on the opposite spectrum and were designed primarily for emerging markets like India and Indonesia where devices could be sold for as low as $25. 

But after failing to gain much traction — turns out building super cheap phones isn’t as easy as it sounds and web apps can’t compare to native apps — Mozilla decided to pivot Firefox OS from powering phones and tablets to powering Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Well, that dream is now dead, too.

As part of a company refocus on the Firefox web browser, Mozilla recently laid off 50 members who worked on Firefox OS development and projects unrelated to the browser, according to CNET.

“We have shifted our internal approach to the internet-of-things opportunity to step back from a focus on launching and scaling commercial products to one focused on research and advanced development, dissolving our connected devices initiative and incorporating our internet-of-things explorations into an increased focus on emerging technologies,” Mozilla told CNET.

Mozilla’s renewed focus for its Firefox browsers (for desktop and mobile) means devices like Panasonic TVs that run on Firefox OS will no longer get new updates.

Additionally, the company’s few IoT projects (none of which ever became consumer products), are canceled as well.

Some of the Firefox OS-powered IoT projects Mozilla was working on before the OS was killed.

Some of the Firefox OS-powered IoT projects Mozilla was working on before the OS was killed.

As a non-profit, Mozilla’s mission with Firefox OS has always been to benefit users — to build open platforms that push technology forward and keep the closed competition on their feet. 

Though it never amounted to much, Firefox OS’s death as an IoT operating system is yet another reminder of how difficult it is to get people to care about the Internet of Things and smart homes. Heck, even Apple’s struggling with HomeKit. The only company that seems to be making gains with IoT seems to be Amazon, and that’s only thanks to the Echo and its Alexa assistant.

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