Firefox OS – The Walking Dead.

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Firefox joins the stagger of zombies that somehow lives on in open source.

  • Mozilla has announced the end of Firefox OS for mobile operators, ending a three year crusade to do the impossible.
  • This comes hot on the heels of Jolla being close to shutting up shop (see here) and the almost complete disappearance of Ubuntu Touch.
  • Mozilla is holding its annual developer conference and has admitted that its team could not deliver the best experience possible which was responsible for its lack of tangible traction.
  • As a result it will no longer offer Firefox phones through carriers although the code will continue to live on in some form within the open-source community.
  • Nearly 3 years ago, FireFox OS launched with much fanfare and promising that it could offer mid to high end smartphone performance at mid to high feature phone prices (see here).
  • Unfortunately, I have long suspected that this promise defied the laws of economics and the aggressive price declines that plagued Android meant that Firefox OS never really stood a chance.
  • Consequently, its lack of scale meant that it could never match the performance of Android within its price point.
  • Furthermore, its lack of an ecosystem meant that users could see no reason why they should buy it.
  • The result has been no real traction resulting in its withdrawal from the market.
  • It is becoming increasingly clear that there are really only two options for those wishing to offer a mobile device.
  • Either one gets on board with Google meaning that there is very little scope for differentiation or one does the whole thing oneself (DIY).
  • (I consider that those creating non-Google Android devices are or soon will be doing virtually the whole thing themselves as Google increasingly moves functionality out of open source).
  • The problem with DIY is that it requires a significant amount of investment to make a decent, differentiated product meaning that substantial volumes are required to make the DIY route viable.
  • This is why it is only the big players with substantial resources and high user numbers that are likely to be able to go down this route.
  • The result is likely to be a continuing concentration of the market meaning that only those with an ecosystem or a technological edge will be able to make a decent return.
  • For everyone else a dreary, commoditised half-life awaits that only massive volumes will be able to improve.
  • So far only Samsung and Google have been able to earn a decent return outside of iOS but in China the big ecosystems are also faring quite well but are investing heavily to become full ecosystems.
  • Hence, I suspect that the smaller offerings are likely to continue failing unless someone can come up with a compelling differentiator.
  • The problem is that everyone thinks that they have one right up to the moment that they join the legion of the walking dead.