ZTE readies Firefox OS handset for Europe as it mulls US launch

ZTE readies Firefox OS handset for Europe as it mulls US launch

ZTE has confirmed plans for a European launch of a Firefox OS-powered smartphone by the end of this year, and, if the market conditions are right, it could also release a similar device in the US, Bloomberg reports.

The Chinese handset maker revealed last September that it had teamed up with the Mozilla to collaborate on smartphones based on the open-source operating system. The first ZTE devices loaded with Firefox OS were scheduled to arrive early this year.

The partnership is a blow to Google, as ZTE had as much as 90 percent of its phones on Android. However, the company has said that it does not want to rely on just one operating system.

ZTE’s US CEO Cheng Lixin told Bloomberg that the company is working with a European carrier to prepare its Firefox handset for release there. He also left open the possibility of a US release by the end of 2013.

“We closely monitor the ecosystem and how it evolves,” the executive said. “If that is ready and if consumer studies support that data, then we may launch one in U.S. also this year.”

ZTE is heavily focused on reaching the US market. It announced last month plans to invest $30 million in Stateside research and development. The company is also amping up its lobbying efforts in order to help improve its image in the Capitol after a congressional report deemed it a potential security threat.

Meanwhile, Mozilla VP Jay Sullivan told Bloomberg that “interest and momentum continues to grow” for Firefox OS. TCL is also working on its own smartphone based on the platform. Wireless operator partners for the project include Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor.

Earlier this month, Samsung confirmed its intention to release Tizen-based smartphones sometime this year. An industry trend appears to be emerging where the world’s top smartphone makers are hedging their bets on Android. Several reasons have been cited for the move away form Android: the operating system is facing legal complaints on different fronts, Google’s purchase of Motorola could represent a conflict of interest, and recent moves to tighten up the Android platform may have discouraged some partners.

Still, ZTE isn’t likely to fully abandon Android any time soon, as the OS has played a critical part in helping the company vault up the ranks of smartphone makers. Android’s here to stay, but 2013 is shaping up to be a year of mobile platform diversification.

Image Credit: STR/AFP/GettyImages

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