The Mozilla Foundation -- the creator of the Firefox web browser -- has just entered the mobile operating system fray, launching its Firefox OS on a line of smartphones in Spain. The ZTE Open will launch Tuesday and will be sold by Telefónica's Movistar for 69 euros (US$90) -- including 30 euros of prepaid credit. Should users purchase a phone with a two-year plan, the cost drops to 2.38 euros (US$3) per month.
The ZTE Open is not intended to be a high-level product. An entry-level smartphone, it comes with a 3.5-inch, 480x320-pixel touchscreen, a 3.2-megapixel camera and 512 MB of storage space -- though the purchase also comes with a 4GB microSD card.
The phone, and its new operating system, are intended to appeal particularly to users in emerging markets who may be first-time smartphone users. Firefox OS is an open-source, browser-based mobile operating system. That means that apps that run on the phone are not tied to an operating system -- as users of other devices are to Apple's iOS or Android. That makes it a lot easier for users to switch phones, since their content is not tied to a particular operating system, and Firefox OS' open-source platform means that anyone who can write a page for the web should be able to create an app.
Going up against industry players like Apple and Google may be a daunting task, but the flexibility - and cost effectiveness - of the ZTE Open seems like a promising combination.