Telefonica Mozilla Team Up for Web-Centric Smartphone

February 28, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Mozilla has teamed up with mobile network operator Telefónica to introduce a web-centric mobile operating system later this year.

Check it out; the Open Web Devices, built around standards based Web technologies, will be an open platform. A prototype device built in collaboration with Qualcomm will carry the platform.

The team aims at manufacturing devices with smartphone-like capabilities and selling it at a price of a common feature phone. Telefónica believes this can be achieved thanks to a platform built around Web technologies which will potentially reduce development and production costs.

Subsequently, new markets can be targeted by the devices, where a smartphone has always been too expensive. “From our experience in Latin America we know that a huge part of the market is not being catered for by current smartphones,” said Telefónica Digital product development director Carlos Domingo.

With new open Web devices we will be able to offer a smartphone experience at the right price point for these customers.

Not much is known about the prototype device which will run the platform, but considering the low cost do not expect more than modest specs. Word has it that LG would be involved in making the device.

The OWD platform is based on Mozilla’s Boot2Gecko (B2G) project launched last year with the aim of building a Linux-based mobile computing environment with an application stack that runs entirely in Gecko, the HTML rendering engine that is used in the Firefox Web browser.

Telefónica was already evaluating the feasibility of creating its own Web-centric mobile platform when the B2G project was first announced. Telefónica subsequently decided to bring its ideas to B2G and join Mozilla in a cooperative development effort.

Mozilla is planning to turn the APIs it developed, for measuring device battery level and communicating with a device’s cellular radio and the like, into open standards. As a further step in this direction, Mozilla revealed that it plans to take this effort one step further by turning the whole OWD platform into an open standard.

Because of this initiative’s commitment to openness, this reference implementation will be submitted for standardization to W3C, Mozilla said. The objective is that there are no proprietary APIs within the device architecture, making phones developed using it the only truly open devices on the market.

There are doubts though. It is still unclear whether a user experience built entirely with HTML and JavaScript will be able to fully match the performance and responsiveness of native code on a mobile device.

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