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Mozilla officially launch Firefox OS for smartphones

Mozilla has announced that its standalone, mobile operating system will be known as Firefox OS, with TCL Communication Technology and ZTE as its first manufacturing partners.

The first Firefox OS-powered devices will run a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and are expected to launch in Brazil in early 2013 via Telefónica's Vivo service, Mozilla said.

Operators like Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, and Telenor have also committed to offering Firefox OS devices.

"Firefox Mobile OS can help us drive an HTML 5-based platform for creating lower cost smartphone options for prepaid, postpaid and wholesale customers," Fared Adib, product chief at Sprint, said in a statement.

Firefox OS comes out of Mozilla's Boot to Gecko project (see video below), which was first announced in July last year. As Johnathan Nightingale, senior director of Firefox engineering said at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC), Firefox OS is intended to do away with the "walled garden" approach of today's modern mobile operating systems, like Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

Boot to Gecko, Mozilla said, "unlocks many of the current limitations of web development on mobile, allowing HTML5 applications to access the underlying capabilities of a phone, previously only available to native applications."

This will allow for "the removal of unnecessary middleware layers," and help drive down the cost of the phones, Mozilla said.

Matthew Key, chairman and CEO of Telefónica Digital, said this lower price point is "crucial" for deploying in emerging markets. "The breadth of support for this initiative across the industry makes it clear that there is an opportunity in the market for a new, open mobile ecosystem," Key said.

"The introduction of the open mobile OS continues the Mozilla mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web for users and developers. As billions of users are expected to come online for the first time in the coming years, it is important to deliver a compelling smartphone experience that anyone can use," Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla, said in a statement. "The large number of operators and manufacturers now supporting this effort will bring additional resources and diversity to our global offerings."