Firefox OS

Featured: Firefox OS and its Pipe Dream

July 23, 2012 - Written By Matt Pedigo
Firefox OS

Many great ideas begin with the phrase: “Wouldn’t the world be better if…” Finish that with, “We freed ourselves of tyranny,” and a country is born. “We could unlock the mysteries of man,” and you have the Genome Project. However, at the headquarters of Mozilla, I feel like that phrase probably ended up with something like: “We developed an operating system that remedied our moral distresses against successful business models,” or “We went after a piece of the pie just like everybody else.”

I’m talking about the Boot 2 Gecko, er, Firefox OS project. I began following this project last year when it was first announced. It promised to offer a unique alternative for developing mobile applications over the proprietary nature of Android, iOS, and other operating systems. It also sought to provide an OS choice against those major vendors. Having worked in web development, the implications of a mobile platform based on HTML5, Javascript, and CSS seemed very tempting. Moving browser-based applications to a cellphone would be a simple matter of scaling. But hasn’t this been done before? Or at least something similar? Introduce, Chrome OS.

Chrome OS had a similar task. Remove our dependency for local storage and proprietary operating systems and usher us into the cloud. To date, I don’t own a Chrome OS device nor do I ever expect to. Most have no need for it. Though the idea is novel, it doesn’t work in real life and for primarily one reason: habit.

Mobile technology has had time enough to see its first casualties (RIM) and its first victors (Apple). With Android consuming a majority of the OS market share and Apple/Samsung gobbling up the hardware share, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for the little guy, the moral competitor. Apple and Google have greatly improved the polish of their interfaces and people are used to them. Coaxing consumers to a new and buggy interface will be nearly impossible. This isn’t even considering how difficult it will be to convince regional and national carriers to give it a shot (keep in mind that Apple struggled to find a home for its iPhone, landing at Cingular).

Firefox OS would have been great 3 or 4 years ago. Now, it just joins the ranks of MeeGo, Bada, and WebOS as an alternative in which nobody is interested. If they wanted to make a dent in a world dominated by two companies, they better have a lot more than worn out UI and moral fiber. They would need to blow us away.