Is a New Kid on the Block Eyeing Apple and Google?

Mozilla is entering the hyper-competitive smartphone arena with its new operating system, looking to contend against the might of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). Firefox OS, also known as “Boot to Gecko,” will be based on Linux, but all apps will be built on HTML5.

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Mozilla said it had already lined up network partners, including Sprint (NYSE:S), Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica (NYSE:TEF), Telecom Italia (NYSE:TI), Telenor, and Etisalat. On the hardware side, it has already struck deals with China’s TCL and ZTE, as well as with Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) for its Snapdragon processor.

“The first Firefox OS powered devices are expected to launch commercially in Brazil in early 2013 through Telefónica’s commercial brand, Vivo,” Mozilla said in a release.

The new software will be targeted at the lower price end of the market. “Due to the optimization of the platform for entry-level smartphones and the removal of unnecessary middleware layers, 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,” the release added.

Mozilla has been working with Telefónica on creating the software, and first demonstrated the platform in February at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Telefónica has said its Firefox OS phone will be significantly cheaper than low-end Android models.

It has become increasingly harder for competitors to rival the might of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, which are together projected to hold more than 80 percent of the global smartphone market share at the end of the year. Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), which used to be highly successful with its BlackBerry platform, is among those who have lost massive market share and seen a big fall in their share price. Nokia (NYSE:NOK), which also lost a last percentage of its mobile market pie, has partnered with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in the hope of gaining back its lost toehold.

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