Mozilla announced earlier today that they will be cancelling the Firefox OS effort, and will cease creation of new smartphones.
To differentiate from Android and iOS, Mozilla and its carrier partners focused on a web-first platform, with no native and only web apps. Sales, however, were always poor and the devices themselves failed to ignite a lot of consumer interest, and a number of OEMs cornered the market with a flood of cheap handsets. In a business that depends on economies of scale, it was a failure.
This comes a week after gauging interest in spinning off Thunderbird. Is Mozilla's new focus on becoming privacy-oritented enough to save the struggling company? What experience did SoylentNews users have with FirefoxOS? I'll admit, I was optimistic and even owned a ZTE Open for a few months back in 2013, but it was a step down from my feature phone at the time (Nokia Asha 311) and ZTE never delivered on the promise to provide updates to the OS.
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See comments here on Mitchell Baker's blog post from 2012: https://blog.lizardwrangler.com/2012/07/06/thunderbird-stability-and-community-innovation/ [lizardwrangler.com]
An example from "roscoe": https://blog.lizardwrangler.com/2012/07/06/thunderbird-stability-and-community-innovation/comment-page-8/#comment-4700 [lizardwrangler.com]"This is really disappointing. First Sunbird – a fine, robust Calendar app gets killed off. Then Songbird support on Linux was dropped. Now development of Thunderbird, the only reliable free GUI email client, is to be “left to the community”. Mozilla are putting all of their eggs in one basket with this narrow focus on Firefox OS, which, lets face it, is doomed to failure. There is no way Firefox OS can compete with Android. Thunderbird was great because it gave Mozilla a niche – Google don’t offer a desktop Email Client. Mitchell says “we have seen the rising popularity of Web-based forms of communications”. With Thunderbird being effectively mothballed, and a lack of other good free GUI based email clients, many people will have little choice but to switch to webmail. ..."
One has to ask what went wrong with Mozilla? What kind of group think led to this disaster? And that is the only word for the waste of (guesstimating) at least US$100 million dollars earmarked for free software, where such dollars are so hard to come by. Like a cancer eating money instead of sugar, Firefox OS sucked the (fiscal) life out of Thunderbird and even Firefox Desktop (with bugs going unfixed for years). I'm not asking anyone to step down -- just asking the Mozilla community to do some introspection on what went wrong internally or in the community for this sort of disaster to have happened? What failed in the internal decision making and due diligence processes? And, as a software developers, could better software tools like structured arguments (SRI SEAS) or multi-perspective tools (SRI Angler) or Issue Based Information Systems (Compendium/IBIS) made a difference in thinking these investments through better?
Here is a proposal I wrote up yesterday for at least improving the Thunderbird situation by creating a Thunderbird Server webapp that runs locally and is browsed using Firefox (and which could support structured arguments and multiple perspectives and IBIS); I posted the link to the Mozilla Governance thread about spinning off Thunderbird:"Thunderbird Server as a Way Forward for Mozilla -- the ThunderbirdS Are Grow! Manifesto"http://pdfernhout.net/thunderbirds-are-grow-manifesto.html [pdfernhout.net]
It would probably only cost a million dollars to get something working well-enough for most of the community to switch to it -- except Mozilla just wasted probably more than 100X that and so now may (perhaps correctly) claim to have no resources left to support what historically was part of their success. :-(
Firefox OS itself looks like it will continue, so maybe that investment will still pay off:
http://www.cnet.com/news/startup-acadine-picks-up-the-torch-for-mozillas-troubled-firefox-os/#ftag=CAD590a51e [cnet.com]"Mozilla isn't pulling the plug on Firefox OS completely, but the carrier partnership plan is over, said Ari Jaaksi, senior vice president of connected devices. ... Mozilla still hopes Firefox OS will power devices like this year's Panasonic 4K TV with apps and interactive features. And it's been working to encourage enthusiasts to install Firefox OS on their own phones. ..."
http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/82862.html?rss=1 [linuxinsider.com]"Mozilla on Wednesday confirmed that it has hung up on the Firefox OS mobile phone and will try using the operating system to dial into other connected device uses instead."
To be clear, I like the idea of a free software phone where apps are deployed using web standards. Just, practically speaking, given all the past failures in the cell phone market by better funded efforts, it might have been better to get everyone writing such web standard apps for Firefox on Android, iOS, and the desktop first. Then if that succeeded, it's much lower risk to essentially just have Firefox as the single app running on Linux, like Chrome OS did with Chromebooks.