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Near-complete Firefox OS shown off at CES

The first big project to emerge from the non-profit foundation in many years, Firefox OS is a full-blown smartphone operating system which runs only web apps (even the lock screen is HTML).

Last year, we covered ‘5 reasons to be excited about... Firefox OS’, and since then Mozilla has been quietly working away on Firefox OS, polishing its WebAPIs, releasing a 1.0 desktop simulator and producing Xcode-style templates for apps.

But at CES in Las Vegas this week, the reality has hit home: what once seemed just a pipe dream is fast becoming a solid, tangible product. Among the giant televisions and ultrabooks on display is a generic smartphone with an ARMv6 CPU and 256MB of RAM: a humble device running what Mozilla reps claimed to be a feature-complete version of the OS.

Engadget were one of several publications to get some hands-on time with the phone, and while little is actually shown in the video - there was no wi-fi available, apparently - the Verge report that the source code is to be frozen in two weeks’ time, ready to ship.

Aside from this tantalizing promise of a finished 1.0 version, the real news is that Firefox OS is - perhaps optimistically - being considered commercially viable enough to be shown off at a mainstream consumer technology show, rather than an enthusiast conference.

As the operating system nears fruition we’ll hopefully see the first commercial devices, produced by Chinese handset manufacturers ZTE and TCL Corporation, on sale later this year. Mozilla are initially aiming at the South American market, but carriers already promising to sell Firefox OS devices include Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telenor, Telefónica and Deutsche Telekom.

If you’re interested in developing for Firefox OS, Mozilla are putting on free ‘Firefox OS App Days’ events around the world at the end of January, which will include talks and hacking.

Elliot Bentley

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