Mozilla is leaving the smartphone industry today by shutting down its mobile OS. Firefox OS was released in 2013 as a low cost and lightweight alternative to iOS and Android, aimed largely at the developing world. The announcement was made at the company's developer conference in Orlando, "Mozlando":
“We are proud of the benefits Firefox OS added to the Web platform and will continue to experiment with the user experience across connected devices. We will build everything we do as a genuine open source project, focused on user experience first and build tools to enable the ecosystem to grow.
Firefox OS proved the flexibility of the Web, scaling from low-end smartphones all the way up to HD TVs. However, we weren’t able to offer the best user experience possible and so we will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels.
We’ll share more on our work and new experiments across connected devices soon.”
Firefox OS was unique because it ran web-based apps rather than native ones. Unfortunately sales for the mobile OS were never outstanding and the phones that supported it were average at best.
Now that Firefox has made an exit from the mobile space, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone remain as the "big three" platforms. Of these, Android and Windows Phone are now best positioned to fill the need for budget phones in the developing world.
The mobile landscape is increasingly reflecting the evolution of the desktop computing industry. Today Microsoft's Windows (in its various forms) has the dominant market share at roughly 85.5%, followed by Apple's OS X at 9.5%, and Linux trailing at 1.5%. In mobile, Android and iOS take the first and second places respectively, with Microsoft in a distant third place.
The question remains whether there is room in mobile for a fourth player. If Microsoft (a company that dominates the desktop) can't compete in mobile, what hope is there for smaller companies?