Back of the mobile OS pack getting crowded


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.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.