Telefónica Working With Mozilla to Build Open Web-Centric Smartphone
Mozilla announced today that it has partnered with mobile network operator Telefónica to deliver a complete mobile operating system built around standards-based web technologies. They plan to bring the platform to market later this year on a prototype device that they are developing in collaboration with Qualcomm.
The new operating system, which is called the Open Web Devices (OWD) platform, is based on Mozilla’s Boot2Gecko project. Mozilla launched B2G last year with the aim of building a Linux-based mobile computing environment with an application stack that runs entirely in Gecko, the HTML rendering engine that is used in the Firefox web browser.
According to a statement from Mozilla, Telefónica was already evaluating the feasibility of creating its own web-centric mobile platform when the B2G project was first announced. Telefónica subsequently decided to bring its ideas to B2G and join Mozilla in a cooperative development effort.
Their initial target is to produce devices with smartphone-like capabilities that can be built inexpensively and sold at the price of a common feature phone. Telefónica believes that the unique advantages of a platform built around web technologies will potentially reduce development and production costs, enabling the company to make devices that are a good fit for regions where smartphones have historically been too expensive for widespread adoption.
“From our experience in Latin America we know that a huge part of the market is not being catered for by current smartphones,” said Telefónica Digital product development director Carlos Domingo in a statement. “With new open web devices we will be able to offer a smartphone experience at the right price point for these customers.”
Mozilla has been working with the W3C to turn its new APIs into open standards with the hope that the technology will be embraced by other browser vendors. In today’s announcement, Mozilla revealed that it plans to take this effort one step further by turning the whole OWD platform into an open standard.
“Because of this initiative’s commitment to openness, this reference implementation will be submitted for standardization to W3C,” Mozilla told us in an e-mail. “The objective is that there are no proprietary APIs within the device architecture, making phones developed using it the only truly open devices on the market.”
The initial OWD prototype device will be built around a Qualcomm chipset, but the exact specifications have not yet been disclosed. In light of the focus on low cost, it’s likely that the specs will be modest. Mozilla contends that OWD is lighter than some other mobile platforms because its simple HTML-on-Linux architecture eliminates the need for a lot of the intermediate layers that would otherwise be necessary.
It does seems clear, however, that the extensive use of HTML will help accelerate OWD development and vastly simplify the sort of customizations that mobile network operators typically make. Mozilla was able to get its B2G home screen interface up and running very quickly due to the strengths of HTML as an environment for creating interactive user experiences.
Another question that is left unanswered is which handset manufacturer will actually build the launch device for Telefónica. A number of rumors that have circulated over the past few days suggest that LG will be involved in building the first handset based on the B2G project. It’s possible that LG is involved, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.
This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.