Mozilla re-branded its mobile operating system -- which it's been working on for more than a year -- as Firefox OS to tie it with its best-known product, the Firefox browser.
Smartphones powered by the new Firefox OS will be manufactured by Hong Kong's TCL Communication Technology under its Alcatel One Touch nameplate, and by China's ZTE. The first such device won't ship until next year, however.
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Mozilla has also lined up several mobile carriers that have pledged support for Firefox OS, including Sprint in the U.S., Germany's Deutsche Telekom, Abu Dhabi's Etisalat, Smart Communications in the Philippines, Italy's Telecom Italia, Spain's Telefonica and Norway's Telenor.
Firefox OS is the new name for what Mozilla had pegged as "Boot to Gecko," or B2G, when it first announced the project in July 2011. At the time, Mozilla characterized the operating system, which was to be based on the Gecko browser engine that powers Firefox, as a "complete, standalone operating system for the open Web."
Mozilla, which has wrestled with how it should tackle mobile -- its Firefox browser has been locked out of the most popular mobile operating system, Apple's iOS -- decided it needed its own operating system to expand Firefox's reach and push its strategy of a standards-based Web.
Firefox OS has been built using HTML5, the still-developing standard. Each phone feature or function -- including calling and text messaging -- is a separate HTML application that runs within the browser-based operating system.
Mozilla has created new Web-based APIs (application programming interfaces) to allow developers to access device hardware.
In a Monday blog post, Mozilla and its new partners touted Firefox OS's functionality, especially its ability to run on entry-level hardware.
"Mobile operators will have the ability to offer richer experiences at a range of price points including at the low end of the smartphone price range, helping to drive adoption across developing markets," Mozilla asserted.
Several of the carrier partners, including Sprint, Telefonica and Telenor, specifically called out the lower-priced theme, saying that Mozilla's Firefox OS would give them a way to offer cheaper alternatives to current smartphones.
"Firefox Mobile OS can help us drive an HTML5-based platform for creating lower cost smartphone options for prepaid, postpaid and wholesale customers," said Fared Adib, Sprint's product chief, in a statement Monday.
Smartphone makers won't have to pay for Firefox OS -- which is also open-source, and thus can be customized by hardware manufacturers or carriers -- putting it in the same category as Google's Android, which is also free.
Analysts were split about Firefox OS' chances.