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Mozilla shutters Firefox OS, gives up on smartphones

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 10, 2015
'Should never have launched [Firefox OS] in the first place,' says analyst.

But even then, Gold said there was little chance of Firefox OS's success. "I think this is just too late to have any meaningful share," Gold said in 2013. "They talk low-cost and minimal resources, but how is this different than Android moving downstream?"

Ryan Reith of research firm IDC was just as dismissive two years ago. "I see no logic in how this can succeed," said Reith of the 2013 status of Firefox OS. "It will continue to be a three-vendor race -- Google, Apple and Microsoft."

Firefox OS never accumulated enough user share or usage share as tracked by analytics vendors Net Applications and StatCounter, respectively, to even appear in their rankings.

In hindsight, an internal memo by Mozilla CEO Chris Beard that CNET obtained in May was a tip-off that Firefox OS and Mozilla's mobile strategy was in trouble. Beard told employees that because the goal of a $25 smartphone running the operating system had "not seen sufficient traction," the organization would "not pursue all parts of the program."

But Beard also said in the memo that Mozilla would "aggressively" invest in Firefox OS, even as he cautioned that it would not compromise on its principles. "We will say 'no' to opportunities, even if they make good business sense, if they do not further our mission," said Beard.

Those comments were echoed in Dixon-Thayer's statement Tuesday.

"We are proud of the benefits Firefox OS added to the Web platform and will continue to experiment with the user experience across connected devices," she said. "We will build everything we do as a genuine open-source project, focused on user experience first and build tools to enable the ecosystem to grow."

Dixon-Thayer also promised that Mozilla would soon share more of its connected devices experiments.

Mozilla has been tightening its belt of late, with the decision to dump Firefox OS only the most recent. Last week, for instance, it announced it would further separate itself from the Thunderbird email client, which had been handed to volunteers three years ago. Also last week, the organization abandoned in-Firefox advertising, a two-year effort it had hoped would diversify revenue and free it from reliance on search providers.

At the same time, Mozilla has pressed ahead on other initiatives, including its emphasis on privacy. On Tuesday, Mozilla launched Firefox Focus, a content blocker for iOS that integrates with Apple's Safari browser.


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