When you think of smartphone operating systems, Android, iOS, and (possibly) Windows Mobile come to mind. While you probably don’t give much thought to the power within your smartphone, many citizens in developing nations still use feature phones or flip phones.
Recently, Ubuntu entered the mobile operating space as did Firefox. While the Ubuntu mobile OS is gaining traction in developing nations, Mozilla recently announced they’re no longer focusing on offering smartphones due to a lack of interest and challenges around clearing deals with the major cell phone carriers.
Although Mozilla is shifting their OS development towards embedded systems such as smart TV’s and internet of things (IoT) components, the operating system code is open sourced enabling anyone to build on top of the existing system.
Acadine Technologies aims to keep the Firefox phone ecosystem going with their flagship offering, the H5OS operating system that runs on smartphones, tablets, and IoT devices.
Unlike most existing operating systems, the H5OS Firefox OS fork stays true to open source principles by enabling device manufacturers, operators, and consumers to have more options in customizing their devices. H5OS is built on a simple architecture that doesn’t rely on native APIs and is instead built on HTML5. This means developers have less work to do, and the operating system also uses resources efficiently. The platform also provides seamless integration between the operating system, on-device applications, and the web-based apps and services that are already out in the wild.
While the H5OS operating system pales in comparison to Android and iOS, Acadine Technologies recently secured a $100M venture round from Tsinghua Holdings, and the company also recently hired talent straight from Mozilla to help jumpstart the product development.
They’re based out of Hong Kong but the company also operates in Beijing, Taipei, Palo Alto, and London. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, former Mozilla President and current CEO of Acadine Technologies, Li Gong said that he firmly believes in the web-based operating system concept. Regarding Mozilla’s decision to scale down the cell phone OS, Gong attributed it to Mozilla being a non-profit and not having the resources to scale up the software.
Compared to other startups in the smartphone operating space, Acadine is off to a great start. Does this mean wireless carriers are going to start selling H5OS phones anytime soon? Probably not, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.
Since H5OS is a web-centric operating system, the bulk of the processing burden goes to the web app provider; a great arrangement for citizens of developing nations where the typical mobile phone can’t run Android or iOS. Embedded systems also are still ripe for innovation. Currently most device manufacturers are using proprietary technologies for their development.
Understandably there’s plenty of concern over smart appliances, however since the technologies are here to stay, it’s better to embrace open standards rather than having a fragmented ecosystem that is difficult to grasp.
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