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« So Who's Your Daddy? Return of the World's Most Accurate Forecaster in Mobile. Today? Windows Phone Forecasts and Foibles | Main | We passed 4 million lifetime visits to this blog over weekend - thank you to readers »

February 26, 2013




Ultimately it doesn't matter what you can and what you can't do with HTML5.

The problem I see is that we got yet another platform that's completely incompatible with all others, requiring developers to create yet another code base.

From an app development standpoint such a system is a nightmare. Instead of streamlining your development with cross platform tools you are forced to rewrite everything in another (and worse, very restricted) programming language.

We already see with WP where this goes: a dire lack of apps. Who does honestly think it will be different here?


@ejvictor @cycnus
I think you have some misconceptions what it means that an app is written in HTML5. It does not mean that you have to be always online (although it is possible to write apps that have a server component) but apps are normally stored on the device itself.
Also it does not mean that anyone can change the apps that are stored on your phone.



Maybe because your expectation of Smartphone OS is different than the target market of FireFoxOS.

The FireFoxOS didn't target the you/android/iOS user. It target a feature phone user who don't really use apps and an always-on-cloud with good/fast/reliable internet.

The FireFoxOS also didn't target the apps (as in download-able application) developer. It target WEB-DEVELOPER such as WEB-based/HTML-based Twitter, WEB-based/HTML-based Facebook.

This is a completely DIFFERENT MARKET/IDEAS than current android/iOS/WP/BB. and it will have DIFFERENT user than current android/iOS/WP/BB.



I'm aware of that. So for me the same logic as for Nokia's Asha phones applies: It's not a smartphone!

What you describe is a high end feature phone, nothing more, nothing less.

Of course knowing how marketing works it'll serve to dilute the meaning of 'smartphone' to sell garbage products to unsuspecting customers.

John Phamlore

Some are claiming Firefox OS's targetted customers are carriers not consumers:


@John Phamlore:

Yes, that sounds about right. The entire product looks like something the customer doesn't need at all but it may be very attractive for the carriers.

We'll see how this plays out. With Windows Phone we have already seen a product that, despite all the hype, all the advertisement and all the money put behind it didn't take off.

It brings back memories from the bad old Java Mobile days where you had to make 10 versions of the same app to comply with the insane demands of different carriers - some demanded a feature - others prohibited it - some demanded some kind of verification with their server - some want special logos - and so on and so on. If an app has to be tailored to 10 different sets of rules it means a considerable amount of added work. All that went away when iOS and Android took over. And that doesn't even consider the fact that 'apps' on this OS have to be 'programmed' in HTML/JavaScript, meaning that lots of developers will outright say 'no, thank you!'

Yes, it's a product aimed at the carriers, not the customers. But seeing that nobody wanting a 'real' smartphone would ever buy this - it'll be limited to the low end of the market where quality doesn't really matter and customers only select by price, not by quality. It'll compete with Nokia's Asha and Samsung's recently announced Rex phones, not with genuine smartphones capable of running natively programmed apps. This is a mobile web terminal, not a mobile computing device (iow. not a smartphone!)



> A phone + web browser...

What is what I have already on all other platforms anyways.

> that's it.

And that's the disadvantage I have on no other platform.

Don't get me wrong: I like Firefox, its my preferred browser on desktop and mobile. But its not 100% of what I need on desktop and mobile. Granted, differen users different demands. For others it may more then enough its just not for me..

> you don't have to connect to internet if you only want to use it

That no the point. Its missing native app support. Thats a huge disadvantage in the HTML5 dynamic world which makes writing and maintaining incredible more hard then in a static language. Most legacy code is native, by far most apps are native or lets say not HTML5. Granted we are at the beginning of HTML5 and it will improve over time.

Anyhow, I have HTML5 at iPhone, at Android, at Ubuntu, at Sailfish. But additionally those platforms support native code. FirefoxOS doesn't. No advantage but only disadvantages from my point of view.

> It's like the Nokia Asha (S40) ***MINUS THE JAVA***

Asha is a bad comparission. Lets compare with Sailfish, Ubuntu, Tizen (which includes native API). That's what the topic was about. Lers no shift to Asha or WP to prove how much lesser FirefoxOS sucks :-)

> It target a feature phone user who don't really use apps and an always-on-cloud with good/fast/reliable internet.

I doubt there are much feature-phone users who are always online. I doubt its the focus of FirefoxOS to force always-online on feature-phones.

FirefoxOS is far lesser browser depending on always-on then a standalone HTML5 app render- and execution engine. That's the wole idea behind HTML5 apps: run locally, always-on not required.

And yes, FirefoxOS does compete against Android. Android is already on $100 devices and going future down. It supports HTML5 like FirefoxOS does. Heck, its a Google Web Service transporter and as such much more internet then FirefoxOS.


I think you all have not paid attention to what can be achieved with HTML5 and JavaScript. Eg:

Yes Virginia, That Is Linux Running on JavaScript

You can really get a complete OS to run under JavaScript. And with JIT compilers, a lot of tweaking, and local storage it can be sped up. There is the "ecosystem" point. But as HTML5 apps work on any browser, under any OS, that should be not a problem for long.

Is this a smartphone? If it can boot a virtual Linux session in the browser, it is a Turing Complete machine. They do not come any smarter than that.


There has been some discussions about Nokia's large shareholders and how passive they are on Nokia's destruction.

Finnish Broadcasting Corporation has digged out the anonymous, passive and large shareholders of many Finnish corporations including Nokia. Article is in Finnish but it has an interactive map that can be played even without Finnish language knowledge:



>> I think you all have not paid attention to what can be achieved with HTML5 and JavaScript.

Oh, I'm quite sure that a lot can be achieved. It's still nothing more than Java Mobile with a different programming language, i.e. it's completely abstracted from the hardware and incurs a massive performance penalty.

This may be fine for some sort of GUI apps but it will most likely exclude the OS from high performance stuff altogether.

Assuming that this will enter the low end market first I not only have to fight against all the abstraction but also against the weak hardware - and end up with non-performant apps.

And let's not forget: Since HTML5 is platform independent it will mean by its very definition that the OS has absolutely nothing to offer. If HTML5 apps start to emerge I can run them as well on Android and iOS. The opposite is not true, though: I can run native apps on iOS and Android, but I can't on FF.

So unless the entire application development transitions to HTML5 - which I don't see happening due to massive investments in current infrastructure there is nothing in favor of FF OS, except carrier politics. This OS is made for the carriers - not for the customers and especiually not for us developers.

I've been in mobile software development for 10 years now, I have experienced the times of Java Mobile with carriers calling the shots and requiring outrageous amount of work being wasted on supporting useless devices and useless features. I have seen 2 companies going bankrupt on the costs of this insanity. Things only started to get better when the iPhone and later Android took over so all we had to deal with was 2 much more reasonable partners (Apple and Google.) When entering another country's market we only had to localize our apps, not wade through endless lists of new requirements to be implemented before we could publish our apps.

No, thank you - from a developer's standpoint I want to leave the carriers out of the picture. They were nothing but trouble 5 years ago and I have my doubts they are any better now.

And that doesn't even address the fact that I could target most other OSs with the same C code if done right - but here I'd have to use a completely different language. Windows Phone is already an unattractive system because of bad design for a platform independent framework like Qt. How on Earth would I deal with this? I not only have to adjust the interface to the system, no, I'd have to reprogram every single line of code I have to make it work. Not going to happen for the majority of apps.

So the bottom line remains what I said before: This system has been made only for the carriers. It's lose-lose for everybody else.


"This system has been made only for the carriers. It's lose-lose for everybody else."

That I will not contest.

You can program a full blown OS on HTML5+JavaScript. Whether you want it or can sell it is another matter. If it can target the low end market with bearable performance, then it just might fly.

But I am the last person you should ask for an opinion on economic viability.



>>You can program a full blown OS on HTML5+JavaScript.

You can do that in any sufficiently sophisticated language. Whether performance is acceptable is an entirely different story.

I find the entire debate somewhat odd. Here a product is unveiled that's clearly not in the customers' best interest and we get buzzwords thrown around like 'the next disruption in mobile technology'. It seems like some interested parties are trying to push this at all costs.

What they forget is that disruptive technologies aren't designed to give a certain group some economical advantage but by offering something the public wants but couldn't have before.

I really can't see it here. FF OS got nothing current smartphones can't do. In fact it can do a lot less. This is not 'disruptive', if this takes off, it's destructive and backwards-minded.

Well, I take my hints from past experience in mobile and there I see another system that really hasn't much going for the customer compared to the competition: Windows Phone. And we see how well it worked despite all the hype, all the money thrown after it, all the destruction it caused to Nokia. They got a pitiful few percentage points and if the money stream was cut off it'd even lose that.

Customers who want a 'smart' phone normally are 'smart' enough to see through most of these smoke and mirrors and tend to avoid them. For those who do not need a 'smart' phone FF unquestionably offers enough - and that's where I see its place in the market: The unassuming low end customer. It got nothing to compete with in the high end or medium range segment.

Will it be somewhat successful: probably. But let's not forget that there's still lots and lots of featurephone users out there who have no need and no desire to own a fully featured smartphone. It's made for those people who mostly use a phone to talk and occasionally do some internet surfing. And this market segment is of little to no interest to me as a developer.


" find the entire debate somewhat odd. Here a product is unveiled that's clearly not in the customers' best interest and we get buzzwords thrown around like 'the next disruption in mobile technology'. "

FirefoxOS is pushed by Mozilla. The reason is obvious. Google is developing a browser based OS in Chrome. Google Maps, Docs, Calendar, Drive etc. Mozilla also know that the future is mobile. If they want to stay relevant, they need to go "Mobile". So, an OS running in their browser is fairly obvious.

With respect to performance. Remember that most of Android UI/Apps are also Java compiled to Dalvik "byte code". There is a whole industry working on making such a set-up efficient, from Python to JavaScript.

It is clear that FirefoxOS was developed in the interest of Mozilla. Those who support it are also not users. The only way they can get this fly is by making it a competitive offering. Either cheap, powerful, or cool.

Pushing it against the will of the consumer? That was tried by MS already.



I agree with what @Winter said. Firefox see that Google can be successful with their ChromeOS, why not Mozilla? and all ChromeOS HTML5 apps is compatible with Mozilla too. The entire Google ecosystem is also compatible with Mozilla.

Janne Särkelä

The interesting twist of the Firefox OS is that it's easily customizable up to the technical functionality. One can change the way the device actually behaves. If you are not happy with the UI, you can redesign it from the scratch to your liking. If you are not happy how the messaging or calls are handled and what events they trigger you are able to change it by coding a bit of javascript, html and css.

Compared to the others like Ubuntu or Sailfish the Firefox OS is build on web core technologies, so I'd say it's a bit more approachable in that sense, and for a different market - it's also a learning platform. I at least would like to have a cheap communication device which I can completely customize to my liking. Firefox OS is in that way a part of the modern technological revolution of (creative) tools becoming widely available and miniaturized.


Retract the Sailfish comment, the OS is created in QT and the Silica extentions are the UI - use QT to hack it to bits

Sander van der Wal

@Cygnus, Spawn

The brand Samsung is selling is not Android. And with Android not being very sticky, Samsung will likely be able to move their customers to other OS'es. So even if Android is big now, it doesn't have the network effects that will assure it stays big.

Regarding the changes of Windows Phone, operators are looking for ways to take away power from Samsung and Apple, enabling them to pay less for Samsung and Apple devices. They can do that by aggressively supporting competing platforms: Windows Phone, Blackberry, Jolla etc. Windows Phone and Blackberry devices are available right now, giving them the change to chip away at Samsungs and Apples hold on the device market right now. The longer they wait, the tighter that grip gets and the harder it will be for them to break it.

This theory is testable: if operators are heavily subsidizing Windows Phone and Blackberry devices, the consumer pays less and the device maker makes lots of money on those devices. You can see for yourself whether these devices are subsidized, and the increase or decrease in smartphone sales prices from Nokia and Blackberry will tell you if the operators pay Nokia and Blackberry the regular price.

Regarding the changes of Samsung-backed OS'es, I would say these are not as good as they seem at first glance. Samsung already has a lot of power, and with Samsung becoming more like Apple all the time, changes are no operator is going to subsidize Samsung to increase that hold. A bit contradictary with my statement on Android, I know. The smartphone market is harder to analyse than the PC market, the operators being an extra party compared to the PC market with OS maker, device maker and device buyer.


@Sander van der Wal
"Samsung will likely be able to move their customers to other OS'es. So even if Android is big now, it doesn't have the network effects that will assure it stays big."

Wishful thinking. Android is big because it is an integrated and powerful OS (linux and Java) with a lot of people around knowing how to work on it. And it is very cheap.

Samsung will have to bear the cost of an alternative OS. Linux has the biggest developer community of any OS. So, Samsung will be very hard pressed to keep up with the Linux kernel. Even MS cannot keep their OS up with Linux. See how long it took to port the NT kernel to ARM.

So ditching Android for anything other than another Linux derivative would be very costly. Trading one Linux mobile OS for another seems rather pointless. They could much easier fork Android.

The idea that the carriers will stave off the wolves (Google and Apple) by mounting a tiger (MS) is nothing but hilarious. They might even be stupid enough to do it.

Nokia has shown once again (and again) that MS are the poster child psychopath of business. The only other companies I know that might be worse than MS are Monsanto and Intellectual Ventures. Coincidentally, Bill Gates is heavily involved in both of them (BG invested a lot in Monsanto and IV was founded from MS).


@Winter. Samsung is in fact deeper in the Linux game than ever.
In fact they have Linux Foundation favoring their turning LF backed Tizen into a Linux kernel backed Bada clone. Still Tizen is the upstream kernel, while Android is a fork that has to track progress.


@Tester: FFOS is a play to disrupt developer market more than user's. And that's by turning legions of front end devs into seasoned mobile developers overnight and overwhelming existing mobile developer structure( which currently is mostly in an employee dominated position) lowering mobile software development cost dramatically.
I can understand your anxiety, it's certainly justified.

From the user side, the assumption here is that given low enough prices the devices will get traction however sucky the ui is. And the whole thing is designed for low price: software requirements and heavy subsidies.
The targeted customer here is present feature phone user whose app adventure ends on occasional java games. If FFOS can deliver on feature phone strong points (that includes battery life), those people can as well get convinced by nearest carrier shop clerk that FFOS phone should be their next. All of that provided the wouldn't be pushed to pay more.

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