Mozilla has brought further clarity to the future of Firefox OS on smartphones today, with the news that development will cease after the release of version 2.6 of the operating system.
Today’s news comes almost two months after Mozilla revealed that the web-focused Firefox OS platform, which was designed to help manufacturers build budget devices in developing markets, would cease to be available on mobile phones.
“We are announcing our plan to end-of-life support for smartphones after the Firefox OS 2.6 release,” said the Mozilla community announcement. “This means that Firefox OS for smartphones will no longer have staff involvement beyond May.”
Additionally, the Marketplace, Mozilla’s home for apps designed for devices running Firefox OS, Firefox for Android, or Firefox desktop, will stop accepting submissions for Android, desktop and tablet from March 29 — after which point all apps that don’t support Firefox OS will be removed. Mozilla added that Firefox OS apps will still be accepted into 2017, though, and hasn’t set a date for when it will stop accepting them.
First unveiled back in 2012, Firefox OS was designed as an alternative operating system for mobile devices. But with the market already dominated by other platforms, including Android, it struggled to gain a foothold. Only a handful of Firefox OS devices hit the market — the first of these was the ZTE Open, which originally launched in Spain in 2013. However, more than a year after revealing plans to build Firefox OS for television, the first such TVs went to market last May.
Mozilla has effectively exited the smartphone realm because of competition from the likes of Apple, Google, and to a lesser extent Microsoft. Smart TVs may hold a slightly easier route to market, given there is less ‘operating system bias’ on TVs — it was only last month when Mozilla revealed that Firefox OS will be powering new Panasonic UHD TVs. Then there is the broader Internet of Things (IoT) space, which Mozilla said will now be its main area of focus.
What that world will ultimately look like, and what role Mozilla and Firefox OS will play, remains to be seen. However, Mozilla did reveal a little more information about what’s on the company’s horizon. It said that its Connected Devices team has been “testing out a new product innovation process with staff,” and that three products have passed “the first gate.”
“Having multiple different product innovations in development will be the approach moving forward, and we’re hoping to open up the formal process to non-staff participation in the first half of the year,” it said.
Back in December, a leaked document suggested that there could be a Firefox OS tablet, router, smart TV stick, and RaspBerry Pi keyboard computer in the works. It’s just a rumor, but it does give us some idea of the types of things Mozilla could be working on.
Firefox OS was a nice experiment for smartphones, but it was pretty much doomed to fail from the start — it was always fighting an uphill battle against the major incumbents. It will be interesting to see what Mozilla can cook up across the connected devices realm moving forward.