Apple OEM contractor Foxconn is prepping several products based on Mozilla’s Firefox OS, says an industry report. The new products, one of which is rumored to be a tablet, are expected to be announced on June 3 in collaboration with Mozilla.
On May 27, Focus Taiwan reported that Mozilla and Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., better known as Foxconn, will on June 3 unveil a device running Mozilla’s Linux- and HTML5-based Firefox OS. The story also noted that an industry insider told the publication the product was likely to be a tablet.
CNET and Engadget have confirmed that they had received invitations from Mozilla for a joint press conference with Foxconn about a new product, but did not confirm the tablet mention. The CNET report did say, however, that a Firefox OS tablet had been rumored of late. Although several Firefox OS phones have been previewed, Mozilla has mentioned tablets only as a future possibility.
In a May 27 article, the Wall Street Journal reported that Foxconn was looking to diversify after a slowdown in demand for Foxconn-built Apple iPhones and iPads. It’s unclear whether the new phones will be Foxconn and/or Firefox OS branded ,or will be sold by one of Foxconn’s OEM customers. Foxconn has gained notoriety for having poor working conditions and under-age employees in its Chinese factories that build Apple devices. Both firms have promised to address the problems.
According to the Focus Taiwan report, the Foxconn partnership will be the 19th Firefox OS partnership announced to date. CNET’s own count was 22, including 18 mobile operators and four device vendors announced at Mobile World Congress in February, so perhaps some of the carriers have dropped out.
On the vendor side, Geeksphone released a small run on its Peak and Keon developer phones (shown at right) in late April, but they were quickly sold out, and remain so. Earlier this month, Mozilla announced Firefox OS Simulator 3.0, offering a greatly improved device simulation for those developers who can’t find a developer phone.
They won’t have to wait long, as Firefox OS phones built by ZTE and Alcatel are set to be released in Spain, Portugal, Poland, Brazil, and Venezuela in June. Subsequent Firefox OS rollouts are expected in 11 more countries by the end of 2013, according to Mozilla. LG and Huawei may be part of the late-2013 crop of handsets, while Sony is exploring a model it might ship in 2014.
In recent weeks, other emerging mobile Linux OS contenders have made some key announcements. In mid-May Jolla opened pre-order voucher sales for the first smartphone to run its Sailfish OS, an open source distribution based on the Linux MeeGo project. The dual-core, 4.5-inch Jolla phone (shown at left) provides a gesture UI, Android app compatibility, and interchangeable “Other Half” back covers that switch user profiles.
Last week, Tizen.org made several announcements at the Tizen Developers Conference. New developments included the launch of a Tizen App Challenge, as well as 2013 phone launch promises from NTT DoCoMo and Orange. Meanwhile, Intel demonstrated a laptop running Tizen 3.0 in a GNOME shell, and more details were leaked about an upcoming Samsung GT-I8805 Tizen smartphone.