The web browser maker has been working on a mobile operating system based on the technology underlying the Firefox web browser. That technology is called Gecko, but Gecko isn’t exactly a household name So Firefox OS makes a lot more sense.
On the other hand, the name also bears a more than passing resemblance to Chrome OS — Google’s operating system based on the Chrome web browser.
The difference is that Chrome OS is designed for laptop and desktop computers, while Firefox OS is designed for smartphones.
What both operating systems have in common is a focus on web technologies. All the apps that you’ll be able to run on Firefox OS will be written using the tools you’d use to write web apps, including HTML5 — although some of those apps will likely be able to work offline when you don’t have an internet connection.
The operating system is based on a Linux kernel and includes some basic software that lets interact with phone hardware. But it’s the Gecko rendering engine that powers most of the software. The phone dialer, clock, music app, and pretty much every other app is basically just a web page optimized for mobile devices.
Mozilla isn’t just changing the name to Firefox OS. It’s also announcing new partners for its project. Phone makers Alcatel and ZTE will produce the first handsets running Firefox OS, and global wireless carriers including Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, and Telefónica are now backing the Firefox OS initiative.
Telefónica is expected to launch the first Firefox OS devices in Brazil in early 2013.