The future of smartphone expansion lies in developing markets… and Eric D. Fescenmeyer believes the low-cost FireFox OS is best placed take them by storm.
When talking about technology it’s easy to get a little myopic about it. That’s the sort of thing happening with Mozilla’s push into the mobile market. The phones that they’re introducing certainly are underpowered and actually pretty small for our markets, especially when you compare them to the powerhouses coming from Samsung these days. The important thing to realise is that aside from the UK, USA, Europe, and what we think about when we say ‘Asia’ there is a whole other world out there – and that world is far larger in terms of population than us. That world is predominately using ‘feature phones’, if they’ve got a phone at all. That means, at best, they’re running Symbian OS. Android and iOS are just a far-off dream, as even Chinese manufacturers cannot seem to push Android handsets easily lower than $80. This very market is how Nokia can keep hanging around.
Low cost handsets can be amazingly profitable, if you understand the market. Perhaps Mozilla does understand it. Allowing the Firefox OS to run HTML5 applications instead of relying on the lock-in of any sort of app-store might be the thing that breaks open the smart phone market in the developing world. To me, the most exciting aspect of this is the innovation that will surely develop with the ease of knocking together an HTML5 app in the developing regions who have shown that even hobbled with the awkwardly backward Symbian OS they can produce some really amazing things.
If you look at the Firefox equipped phones as primarily aimed at the developing world. The phone and OS no longer looks pokey, because it’s all a factor of relativity. Comparing this to a flip phone, it’s a rocket ship, and that’s the sort of competition it’s going against. By using essentially proven, off-the-shelf components as they are doing will move to make them a palatable aspirational device for markets like Latin America, where they are targeting first. Building a strong base in this, the largest market by population, would give Mozilla the strength to make a bid for the developing market in a few years. It seems crazy to think about, but framing it in the fact that iOS is being pushed into a corner of the market, Android is fragmenting and Windows is only slowly gaining share things seem a bit more…open. Who knows what the world will look like in the near future but once the developing market breaks open for low-end smart phones it’ll prove easy money for handset makers who’ve been edged out by larger players and OSs.