Why Firefox OS is a good bet for Mozilla

CITE world‘s Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry stirred up a debate this afternoon with a piece predicting Firefox will become the mobile OS to beat. Mozilla’s platform provides a way for handset manufacturers to bring devices to market cheaply and easily, Gobry writes, and those low-end smartphones will appeal to users in emerging markets where smartphone sales have yet to take off. Meanwhile, some important carriers are already backing Firefox OS, as I wrote last month, and Gobry predicts developers in emerging markets will be round out the ecosystem as the platform gains traction.

The piece prompted a few opposing tweets from tech veteran Jay Kannan, who argues that the market simply doesn’t need another mobile operating system:

The problem with switching to Android, though, is that Google has made it very difficult to for others to build their own ecosystems within operating system because it withhold some of its integrated, cloud-based features. I’ve argued that Nokia has the experience, partnerships and apps to create its own Android-based ecosystem, but Mozilla doesn’t have that luxury. So it may as well launch its own operating system.

Kannan also notes that Mozilla’s HTML5-based operating system has had some performance problems, and I agree that’s been the case. But Firefox OS is still a very young platform, and HTML5 is still very much a work in progress. If Mozilla sees even modest sales in a few emerging markets, it can continue to plug away while the OS matures and evolves. That’s a big “if,” I know, but I think it’s reason enough to believe that launching its own mobile platform was a good move.