Tom Nolle
Tom Nolle is the president and founder of CIMI Corporation and the principal consultant/analyst. Tom started his career as a...
Read Full Bio >>

Tom Nolle | July 26, 2012 |


Could Mozilla be a Cloud Handset Powerhouse?

Could Mozilla be a Cloud Handset Powerhouse? The newest Firefox OS could be a game-changer in the handset space, and even have an influence on the cloud as a whole.

The newest Firefox OS could be a game-changer in the handset space, and even have an influence on the cloud as a whole.

We think of smartphones and we think of Apple, the glamour leader, Android/Google the market-share leader, or Microsoft the perpetually hopeful. Now maybe we have to think of another name, the Mozilla Foundation. Their newest Firefox OS could be a game-changer in the handset space, and even have an influence on the cloud as a whole.

Smartphones introduced what might be the key concept for the online world and the underpinning of our coming mobile-empowered age--the "app". An app is a kind of shorthand link from an icon to an experience, typically fulfilled in large part by a hosted service and represented by a URL. By shortcutting the navigation process, an app makes it possible for a mobile user to access information without getting (too) distracted. It matches the mindset of the mobile user, who is living life in the wide world and not sitting at a desk taking time with browsing. The app revolution is percolating into the PC world now; Google is dropping its customized "iGoogle" homepage next year in favor of an app page.

What Mozilla wants to do is to introduce some openness to this process, and perhaps to make it a bit more cloud-friendly. Firefox OS takes handset capabilities (display, GPS, radio) and makes them accessible as standard APIs. These can be used by web authors in HTML5 pages and scripts, and they can be combined with URLs that represent external web-linked or network resources. Instead of installing an app, you simply load an HTML5 page and you're running.

What you end up with is a model for something I call "brightphones"--phones that have some intelligence but are less expensive and less "internalized" in feature generation than the smartphones that run today's mobile OSs (iOS, Android, Microsoft, etc.). Under this model, the handset guys build a cheaper version of their device and run Firefox OS on it. It competes indirectly with smartphones because it can deliver much the same experience for MOST (not all) apps, but can do it cheaper and using cloud resources more extensively, so it favors cloud-based service strategies.

The telcos--most in private and some in public--love this notion because it could reduce the mobile-market dominance of the smartphone vendors. Some are also very interested in the fact that this model could help them deploy their own smartphone features, hosted by the operators and used in those HTML5-based apps.

This latest version of Firefox OS comes at an interesting time, because Microsoft is clearly ramping up for a giant cloud and appliance battle with Google. The most recent salvo is Office 2013, which will be supported on even the Windows RT version of Microsoft's Surface tablet, and which will for the first time include integration with Microsoft's Lync UC platform as well as Skype and Yammer. All of this seems to point to a more cloud-centric vision for collaboration in general and UC in particular. Microsoft's strategy is proprietary, of course, but Firefox OS could present an open strategy for creating collaboration.

Here's how it could play out: Imagine an HTML5 web developer weaving some handset or tablet features together with a cloud-hosted set of tools that included whiteboard, meeting, video, voice, etc. The result would look like a UC app, and it could work not only on phones or tablets but also on Firefox browsers for desktops and laptops, providing that there was some way to mimic APIs that represented the "handset or tablet features". That doesn't seem like rocket science, and in fact Mozilla seems to be planning to provide these tools for PCs and other platforms that Firefox runs on. Mobility, communications, collaboration, and productivity--even access to business applications--might be merged into this glorious HTML5-based process and hosted (of course!) in the cloud.

An open model like this could offer significant benefits to users. If apps can be developed and deployed like HTML5 web pages, it sure simplifies the process of tuning collaboration and productivity features to each worker's specific needs. In theory, it would open the door for developers to deploy productivity tools as cloud services that could then be composed into pretty screens by those HTML5 authors. It could also redefine the competition in the space, forcing the primary collaboration and UC vendors to open their features up as cloud-hosted services delivered through URLs. Some might like this kind of business model--it's more subscription than purchase, and clearly what Microsoft and Google envision already.

There are potential security issues here too, of course. Any web page can access any URL, which might mean that an HTML5 author building an app for a business could incorporate tools that were untrustworthy, meaning unreliable or insecure. Maybe even downright malicious. The details on how Firefox OS could be secured are yet to be finalized, and it's not known whether these mechanisms would work only on Firefox OS or also on the Firefox browser running on other platforms. In any event, the security problems with Firefox would be no worse than those associated with any sort of thin-client, browser-based, application access strategy. How well does anybody know what's inside those URLs, particularly when they're interfaces to a service instead of interfaces that deliver a visual experience like a web page?

That's likely a question that enterprises will have to ask, and answer, and not only for Firefox OS. The trends in the market seem to be driving us toward a service-feature model of applications in general, a model where application features are exposed through APIs and URLs and composed into screens on demand. Most of the security mechanisms that target the use of URLs or web APIs are firewall-based and designed to enable or block, but can they scale to the size of the cloud? Can they be updated to keep pace with the delivery of new application and communications features? We're probably going to find out.


April 25, 2018

Yesterdays simple phone call to a contact center or business location is rapidly becoming todays interactive session, spanning multiple channels and devices. If you need to know how Omnichannel can

March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.