ZTE to launch for Firefox OS smartphone in Q1 2013

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Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has confirmed plans to release a smartphone powered by Firefox OS, Mozilla’s entirely open source mobile operating system built with HTML5 and CSS web standards, in the first quarter of 2013. The company’s executive vice president He Shiyou confirmed the news to the Wall Street Journal, making this the third platform they are supporting along with Android and Windows Phone.

Beyond their commitment to Firefox OS, ZTE also confirmed it would be releasing a Windows Phone 8-powered handset later on in the year, although exact details about its release date were not disclosed.

Mozilla announced the partnership back in July. At the time, the company said the first Firefox OS-powered devices will run a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and are expected to launch in Brazil through Telefonica’s Vivo brand of entry level handsets. TCL was also named as a manufacturing partner, while operators Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, and Telenor all committed to offering Firefox OS devices.

Mozilla is hoping to change how developers today must re-write their apps to run on the various closed mobile-phone platforms available. Firefox OS apps are based on HTML 5 but will reportedly still look and feel like a native app with access to underlying phone capabilities like calling, messaging and games.

Curiously, Facebook CEO was recently quoted as saying the social network wasted two years betting on HTML5 for its mobile apps, and has since moved to building native versions for Android and iOS that are able to offer the level of speed and quality they are after. Time will tell if Mozilla’s bet on an open platform based on HTML5 pays off, but in the meantime, with two very established players and a handful others battling it out to nab the third spot, it looks like its going to be a long and uphill battle for Firefox OS.

For whatever it’s worth, Mozilla isn’t going after the iPhone or high-end Android devices from day one, rather they say their goal is opening up cheap, functional phones to the web in emerging markets.

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