Mozilla has announced the end of its years-long flirtation with smartphones running Firefox OS. The news broke earlier today at Mozilla’s developer event in Orlando, Mozlando, and was confirmed to TechCrunch in a statement.
"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. 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," said Ari Jaaksi, Mozilla’s SVP of Connected Devices.
He added "Firefox OS proved the flexibility of the Web, scaling from low-end smartphones all the way up to HD TVs. However, we weren’t able to offer the best user experience possible and so we will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels."
First unveiled in 2013 (a few years after competing Chrome OS devices), Firefox OS was intended to be a competitor to iOS and Android that would run open-source software on low-end hardware, giving device makers and telecoms in developing countries a cheap alternative.
Alas, that never happened. Some 25 Firefox OS Smartphones have been produced, as well as a couple tablets, but according to IDC Firefox OS smartphones never amounted to more than a fraction of one percent of the market.
Sales were poor in large part because Firefox OS got such a late start compared to iOS and Android. Firefox OS was never able to match the breadth and quantity of apps developed for Android, and Mozilla's focus on web apps over native certainly didn't help. And with Android able to run on the same cheap hardware, the writing was on the wall.
Just to be clear, today's news doesn't mean Firefox OS is completely dead; Mozilla has said that it will continue to experiment with Firefox OS on connected devices like SmartTVs, dongles, etc. But it does look like your chances of carrying around a Firefox OS smartphone just got a little thinner.
And of course development of the Firefox web browser continues apace. In fact, just yesterday Mozilla announced Focus by Firefox, its take on content blocking for iOS 9.