Startup picks up the torch for troubled Firefox OS

13 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

90:9:1 – the odd ratio that technology keeps creating.

What do operating systems, browsers and search engines all have in common? Internet of Things fever is taking over and Mozilla is jumping the bandwagon and in the process has decided to put an end of Firefox OS powered mobiles.Take mobile OSs: This week the Mozilla Foundation pulled the plug on Firefox OS – the mobile OS which could have replaced native apps with HTML-based apps – a final death throe in the mobile OS wars. A move that will not really make a huge difference in the smartphone spectrum, Mozilla’s decision is something that wasn’t entirely unexpected considering that the non-profit organization didn’t have a lot going on for itself in the smartphones world. There are now three main platforms – Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone – for which worldwide shipments are currently running in a ratio of about 85:14:1 respectively.

Android phones around the same price range already had access to hundreds of thousands of apps available to download when the first Firefox OS phone launched. Now look at desktop OS sales: the ratio stands in the most recent quarter at about 91:8:1 between Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OSX, and “self-build” machines which probably get Linux.

Focus by Firefox, the latest content-blocking app from Mozilla will allow iPhone and iPad users to selectively block advertisements and third-party website plugins that are known to send back information to that site. Mozilla intends to cash-in on this and it is betting its chips on the technologies it has already developed for smartphones and will channel them to the IoT world. “We will explore and prototype new use cases in the world of connected devices as an open source project with a clear focus on the user benefit and experience”, Mozilla said in a post. “We will focus on products and technologies that allow people to access and manage their world of connected devices, helping to ensure people are empowered, safe and independent.” The announcement by Firefox OS maker comes just days after Jolla cut its workforce working on the Sailfish mobile OS. It’s oddly reminiscent of the “1% rule” – a rule of thumb observed as far back as 2006, which states that if you have a group of 100 people interacting online, then one will generate some content, nine will provide feedback, and 90 will simply consume it. (Studies have broadly confirmed that principle.) In the PC and smartphone worlds, the 90:9:1 ratio has each time come about after a sort of Cambrian explosion in the early stages, as different players rushed to capitalise and try to be dominant.

This indirectly means that iOS and Android have more or no competitor left to compete with considering that Windows Phone has a distant 2.2 per cent share and BlackBerry has been relegated to almost 0 per cent share. On smartphones there were Symbian, Meego, Windows Mobile, Asha, BlackBerry 7, BlackBerry 10 (now effectively dead, as BlackBerry has moved to Android), and of course Firefox OS, as well as Jolla (which looks to be nearly dead) and Samsung’s Tizen (which isn’t). Such ad blockers are also known to be harmful to the online ecosystem, and probably that’s what compelled Peace ad blocker to be pulled out by its own developer. In both cases the explosion was enabled by the growing commoditisation of components but because maintaining an operating system and an app ecosystem, whether on PC or smartphone, is an expensive business, there was a shakedown.

However, we weren’t able to offer the best user experience possible and so we will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels. “Everything is connected around us. BlackBerry, for example, gave up on BB10 because, chief executive John Chen hinted, it cost too much to write drivers for different chips; by going to Android, that challenge is abstracted away to Google. The company has confirmed this news to Techcrunch stating, “Firefox OS proved the flexibility of the Web, scaling from low-end smartphones all the way up to HD TVs.

In 2002-3 Microsoft’s Internet Explorer held prime position: its various versions peaked with a 95% share in those years, as Netscape faded and before Apple’s Safari and then Firefox (the browser) arrived in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Firefox became the “9%” player, and gained ground rapidly, peaking at about 24% of browser use in November 2009; there were times when the release of a new version of Firefox was an internet event.

Notably, all of these products are part of the networked world, and each is a mutually exclusive activity – that is, you can only use one at a time. One possible explanation is that games consoles have never had their “commoditisation” moment: there’s only one manufacturer for each, whereas there are multiple makers of PCs and smartphones. Thus games consoles could never see the consolidation around one platform or another, as long as the rival platforms could come up with compelling content. (Sega’s inability to do so led to its downfall as a hardware vendor.) There’s another area where the ratio doesn’t hold: Social networks.

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