Mozilla likes to describe Firefox OS as an open alternative to existing smartphone operating systems. You can run the mobile operating system on pretty cheap hardware. It’s open source and customizable by operators. And since it basically runs web apps, there’s nothing stopping you from installing virtually any compatible app you can download from the internet.

But it turns out that while any device maker will be able to load Firefox OS on their phones, in order to slap a “Powered by Firefox OS” label on the back, devices will have to meet a few requirements.

Firefox OS

For instance, The Verge reports that in order to be certified by Mozilla a phone will need to have the Firefox web browser and Firefox Marketplace app store pre-loaded. They’ll also need to meet some basic hardware requirements, but it shouldn’t be tough to deliver a phone with an 800 MHz processor, 256MB or more of RAM, and a 320 x 240 pixel or higher resolution display.

Device makers and wireless carriers will also be able to add their own app stores with support for carrier billing and other features, and Mozilla is actually encouraging them to do that. But if it doesn’t have the Firefox Marketplace, it’s not an officially certified device.

In other words, you could theoretically have a situation much like the one that’s allowed Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other companies to deliver tablets that run Android, but which aren’t officially Google certified devices.

The difference is that even if you buy a Firefox phone that doesn’t come with the official Marketplace app, there probably won’t be anything stopping you from simply visiting the Firefox Marketplace website with your mobile browser to download apps that may not be available from your carrier’s store.

The first Firefox OS handsets are expected to ship this summer, but we probably won’t see any in the US until next year.

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