Mozilla, the makers of the Firefox browser, told its employees that it will be shutting down its connected devices business. This will mark the end of Firefox OS and Mozilla’s attempt to make an open-source operating system a true rival to Google’s Android OS.
“We have shifted our internal approach to the internet-of-things opportunity to step back from a focus on launching and scaling commercial products to one focused on research and advanced development, dissolving our connected devices initiative and incorporating our internet-of-things explorations into an increased focus on emerging technologies,” CNET reported quoting a statement from Mozilla.
Firefox OS was originally started as a smartphone platform. The aim was to create free and open source platform that uses web apps. Although the company did manage to offer smartphones at dirt cheap prices in developing countries (including India and Brazil), Firefox OS was soon overshadowed by Google’s Android OS. Mozilla didn’t do well in the smartphone space and the development of the software was stopped in September 2016. Later, the company tried to re-position the operating system with a major focus on Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The only product to ship as a result of renewed efforts was a Panasonic 4K TV, running on the modified version of Firefox OS.
The initiative which was supposed to grow beyond browsers is ending on a bad note and the company has confirmed the departure of 50 employees. Ari Jaaksi, the senior vice president in charge of the effort, is leaving, and last week, Bertrand Neveux, director of the group’s software, had also left. The CNET report said, “Some might stay at Mozilla since they can apply for new positions, some of which Mozilla opened early to ease the pain of the layoffs.”
As for the future, it is hard to predict, but Mozilla will continue to work on IoT projects. For instance, the company is working on Project Vaani, a digital voice assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa but with more focus on privacy, and Voicebank, an initiative to collect voice samples to train AI for voice recognition. A spokesperson told TechCrunch that, Mozilla has invested in several emerging technologies like AR and VR.