I found out early this afternoon, when Carlos DarthRivan commented on a link on our Facebook page. The link was to an article on the anticipated release of the first phones running the Firefox OS. They were scheduled to be released by GeeksPhone, a young Spanish start-up mobile telephony company.
“Geeksphone started selling them yesterday and went ‘sold out’ in few hours. Let’s see if this will be the OSource alternative to Android and iOS.”
Excuse me if I show more than a little childlike exuberance, which I know is unbecoming to a person my age, but I found this to be exciting–perhaps the most exciting news to come out of the FOSS world since SCO’s smoking gun turned out to be lines of code “stolen” from BSD. But that’s just me.
Although I was already late to a meeting I didn’t want to attend, and needed to open, heat and pour into a thermos a can of sodium enriched soup to get me through the night at my “day” job, I took the time to quickly dash-out a reply. I wanted to share my glee with the person who brought me such good tidings.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. I need to get a life.
“We’d have to laugh if this takes off, Carlos DarthRivan. It’d be like Firefox getting out with a ChromePhone before Google had the chance. We’ll be very interested in seeing how this does, but we’ll also be anticipating the Ubuntu phone. We’re figuring Canonical might get some push from Amazon with that one. A Kindle Fire running Ubuntu, perhaps?”
By the time 5 o’clock rolled around and I was settled-in at my “day” job, the Internet was abuzz with the news. The Firefox OS is now a reality. It’s not (like so many others) just another still-not-ready-for-prime-time mobile operating system that can be downloaded by tinkerers who’re willing to brick an expensive Android phone to see if they can get the damn thing to work. Nope. This is not some techie’s wet dream, but an actual mobile orgasm.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why this is so cool:
- Chromebook. With Google’s Chromebook finally taking off and every laptop maker on the planet jumping in with a “me too” device, it was only going to be a matter of time before Google came-up with a cloud based phone–a ChromePhone, if you will–to augment their success with Android. Well, the Firefox phone now makes Google a little late to that fair. Not that there’s much wrong with Google, mind you. But sometimes we need a David to cut Goliath down a notch or two to make sure his britches continue to fit.
- Openness. If this thing really does end up being airworthy, we can expect the Firefox phone to be a wee bit less the walled garden than Android, which was a wee bit less the walled garden than the iPhone. Apps for Firefox OS will be able to run on any device able to deal with HTML5, which pretty much means any phone with a browser. If that doesn’t lower the “app store” playing field a little bit, I don’t know what will.
- Affordability. Phones running the Firefox operating system should be much more affordable for many of the same reasons that Google’s Chromebooks can be brought to market so cheaply. They’re web based, so they don’t need tons of on-board storage or CPU power since most of the heavy lifting can be done in the cloud. For the same reason, higher end Firefox devices should outperform similarly powered iPhones or Android phones.
- Windows Phone 8. This affordability is especially sweet because of it’s potential effect on Microsoft’s already failing mobile plans. Recently the smart money has been suggesting that Microsoft should quit trying to grab the mobile brass ring in the developed world, that they’d be better off by re-purposing their mobile OS for entry level smartphones in emerging markets. The Firefox phone might throw a monkey wrench into that not-so-well-oiled plan, which would be irony of Shakespearean proportions.
Remember, Firefox and Mozilla are the phoenix that rose from the ashes of Netscape, which Microsoft purposefully destroyed with Internet Explorer because they feared that Netscape might redesign their browser to act as an operating system, which would be a game killer for Windows. Wouldn’t it be a gas if it was the Firefox OS that spoiled Microsoft’s last best chance to make a dent in the mobile market?
The GeeksPhone offering is primarily aimed at getting Firefox phones into the hands of potential developers of apps for the platform. According to Forbes, the quickness of yesterday’s sell-out came as a complete surprise to GeeksPhone’s founder and CEO Javier Aguera:
“‘What we were not expecting is that speed for selling,’ he said. ‘So immediately after we announced it we had thousands of people visiting the store, checking the prices, trying to make purchases. We were surprised at the quick reaction.’
“Geeksphone opened its store on Tuesday at 8am Madrid time, and was out of stock by around noon. The company has partnered with Qualcomm on chipsets and component suppliers in Asia. It outsources to a company in central China to assemble the final devices, although it plans to eventually manufacture the phones in Brazil — ‘if business development plans go well,’ Aguera said.
“Aguera could have expanded the number of phones available to order on his site today, but didn’t want to overload his 20-person company with a glut in orders and delays to shipping. ‘There is enough being manufactured in China to keep up with demand,’ he added. ‘Anybody that wants to be able to purchase a device will be able to do so tomorrow without too much problem.'”
The GeeksPhone company is dedicated to producing open source handsets. Before yesterday’s release of the two Firefox OS models, they had released two handsets, both running Android. The models released yesterday can be purchased on the company’s website. The cheaper Keon comes equipped with a 1 Ghz processor, 4 GB ROM and 512 MB RAM. It also includes Wifi, Bluetooth, an FM radio and a 3 MP camera and sells for $119. The Peak sells for $194 and features front and rear facing cameras and a dual core 1.2 Ghz processor.