Back of the mobile OS pack getting crowded

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For geeks only. For now.

Telefonica, a multinational telecommunications carrier, is walking point on HTML5. Working with the Mozilla Foundation, the Spanish company announced the upcoming availability of a smart phone running the new Firefox operating system, which is being developed specifically to support HTML5 apps.

The advantage is, in theory, an HTML5 app can run on any phone, regardless of the OS, so long as it has sufficient browser horsepower. So far, the language hasn’t been fully baked (and some question whether it ever will be) but development continues.

There’s a growing assumption in the industry that when (if) HTML5 lives up to its promise, it’ll be 2007 all over again with a complete reshuffle for the smart phone sector. Manufacturers could use any operating system they want, without having to worry about the availability of apps.

Apple might be able to ban HTML5 apps, like it did with Adobe’s Flash, but Google won’t be able to keep it off Android phones. No one else really matters – RIM and Microsoft have their hands full just staying in a very distant third and fourth place, respectively. If it flies, HTML5 will put Firefox, Ubuntu, Tizen and other wannabes on a level playing field. Cost and performance will matter more than market share.

The Firefox phone, positioned for the present as a “developer preview”, is being made by the wonderfully named Geeksphone company, in partnership with Telefonica. Two models are planned, a low end version with a Snapdragon S1 processor and a more powerful unit with an S4.

Haven’t seen any pricing info, but it’s supposed to available in February, with Telefonica said to be planning to also roll it out in Latin America, starting in Brazil. Sounds like good fun – I’ll be watching for when it ships.

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