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Mozilla is getting in bed with Panasonic to make a Firefox OS-powered TV baby

CES 2014

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LAS VEGAS — When I got on the phone with Mozilla and Panasonic last week, I knew something weird was afoot. I had no idea how weird.

Mozilla’s doing a TV, y’all. They’re doing a smart TV powered by Firefox OS, their homebrewed, web-based smartphone operating system. And Panasonic is all on board to make it happen.

(They’re also doing a tablet and a desktop… thingy. But you’ll have to read to the bottom for those deets.)

“We saw smartphones as the starting point, but the web is on a trajectory to flow over into all device categories,” said Andreas Gal, vice president of mobile at Mozilla.

“Over the next couple years, every kind of device could be powered by HTML and open standards. Right now, the television space is as proprietary as smartphones.”

Firefox OS, which launched last summer, has thus far been targeted directly at emerging markets and the developing world. These cheap, smart phones everyone can afford are now being sold in 14 countries by four international operators and manufactured by three OEMs.

“In the television space, our assumption isn’t the same; the smartphone market strategy doesn’t translate,” said Gal. “We don’t see the web limited to a particular consumer device; it can serve any kind of market.”

As for any suspicions arising from Firefox OS’s downmarket origins, Panasonic VP Merwan Mereby said, “Quality and performance were one of the key factors in choosing to partner with Mozilla.”

As for markets and distribution, he said, “This announcement is related to the U.S., but it’s intended for a global release later this year.”

Gal added, “The web didn’t become the most ubiquitous source of content by being low-quality.” He points to the browser wars, where the open platform of the web has bred fierce competition and pursuant high-quality experiences across the industry.

On the content side, both parties are fairly optimistic.

“Our intent is to make all existing content supported under Firefox OS,” said Mereby. “This gives them the flexibility of an open platform and focus on HTML5.”

Finally, there are two other devices to discuss: the tablet and the desktop… thingy.

“With Foxconn, we’re announcing a developer program for tablets,” said Gal.

“We’re bringing a reference hardware to market and bringing the first version of Firefox OS for tablets. Our goal is to develop this jointly with our developer community.”

It’s a most Mozillan modus operandi that suits the Foundation well.

And the desktop thingy?

“It’s a very affordable piece of desktop-like hardware that runs Firefox OS, and it’s very much targeting developing markets,” said Gal. “It relies on you attaching it to a monitor and keyboard and mouse.”

So, in theory, kind of like an old-school, real-deal computer and a Chromebook, give or take a few hundred dollars. Or like Raspberry Pi. Sort of.

We’ll have lots more coming from the show, so stay tuned to our CES hub for more news, gadgets, and interviews.

More information:

Panasonic Corporation group of companies is a globally recognized manufacturer of electric and electronic products that range from electronic components to consumer electronic products, home appliances, factory automation equipment, in... read more »

The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes openness, innovation and participation on the Internet. Mozilla is best known for the Firefox browser, but we advance our mission through other software projects, gra... read more »

Mozilla is a thriving community of intelligent, principled and passionate individuals who build software to preserve choice, openness and innovation on the Internet. As part of this mission, Mozilla develops and distributes the popular... read more »

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