Is there room for a Firefox phone in government?


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The Gadget Guy reviews the latest technology for the government and explores related trends and hot topics.2013_07_firefox_logo-only_RGB-300dpi

This week in Spain, Mozilla released a smartphone running its new Firefox OS, becoming the fifth major mobile device operating system in production, after, of course, Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows.

The ZTE Open is a basic-function, 3.5-inch display smartphone currently being sold by Telefonica for 69 euros or about $90. Another Firefox OS phone, the Alcatel One Touch Fire, has been raising eyebrows at trade shows, but has yet to be released.

Because Firefox OS was built to open Web standards, there should be quite a lot of activity on the app-creation front, as more people are already familiar with HTML 5 than have learned the proprietary coding languages needed to make apps for competitors. Jumping right in without having to learn yet another programming language should get many developers excited enough to start making apps for it.

Right now, there are no plans to release a Firefox OS smartphone in the U.S., as Mozilla has announced it is going to first concentrate in emerging markets such as Spain, Eastern Europe and South/Central America. Its main goal is to bring an affordable option to people who might be purchasing a smartphone for the first time. These are places where cell providers don’t always offer multiyear contracts, which is mainly how domestic resellers drive down smartphone prices.

While this is probably good news for the smartphone market in general, it probably won’t make a large impact on how government agencies go about their daily business. Because it is an open source operating system, adapting an existing BYOD to include Firefox devices should be easy enough.

Whether an organization allows its employees to use one for government work will depend entirely upon whether the security features of a particular model of smartphone will be sufficient, and I doubt many would consider the current offerings up to snuff in that area. However, by the time Mozilla decides to hit U.S. markets, there may be a manufacturer who has made security a major consideration. Only time will tell.

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