Five challenges for Firefox OS

firefox-phone
Image from http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefoxos/

I’m pretty excited about Firefox OS. I believe in open-source projects, plus Mozilla has a good record on creating awesome software and keep it open and free. And I think they are an example on following those standards that make life easier for developers and designers. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m really happy with Android (specially since I moved away from manufacturer’s versions of Android and started using custom ROMs), but Google’s shadow is quite big and still growing… and I really hate their contacts management system!

I’m also looking forward to play with Ubuntu for Android, but I have the feeling Firefox OS is a very different concept: while Canonical is trying to give a big and interesting step on personal computing with a phone able to run a whole PC at the same time, it seems that Mozilla is putting its money on simplicity. Which sounds much better when they tell you that the smartphones running Firefox OS will cost around $100. That means you can get up to six fully functional phones at the price of an iPhone or a high-end Android device.

But even though I love the concept (open-source, free, simple, based on standards… how not to?) I think there are a few challenges they have to overcome if they want to get a piece of the cake in the big markets other than the obvious (being user-friendly, having a long battery life and a good touch screen response, or simply being fast):

  1. Migration. High in the “to-do” lists they should have the creation of apps to migrate your contacts and text messages from Android and iOS (although I don’t really see many fanboys changing to FirefoxOS in the short-term…). The easier it is to move to the new phone the more attractive it becomes.
  2. Top apps. Who is going to get a smart phone that doesn’t have Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and AngryBirds? They just have to integrate those popular apps that we just can’t live without anymore, or rather get those companies to develop those apps (which shouldn’t be that hard, being the whole system standard HTML5).
  3. Maps/Navigation. By definition they should go with open-source projects, even if that means putting some work to develop their own apps or help the existing projects. That doesn’t mean they have to block a possible GoogleMaps app, just make sure they have fully working open alternatives.
  4. Security. Mozilla has announced that Firefox OS’ app store will be open for anybody who wants to share/sell an app. Although I think that’s way to go (I don’t like anyone telling me what can I install or not on my computer) I see the risks of it. So the same way they have to make sure Firefox doesn’t have any security breaks that allow hackers to break into your computer and potentially access your private stuff or steal your money, Firefox OS should be a bunker unless you open the door on your own.
  5. Devices. The main reason of Android’s popularity is that it works in many different devices, while iOS is meant to be used only in iPhone. Firefox OS should be easy to install in any device (in a similar way you can install a custom Android ROM from the recovery mode), and able to run smoothly in even the lower-end smart phones.

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