Irina Sandu

on mobile and Mozilla

Firefox OS – the job to be done

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 11.34.39 PM

Firefox OS doesn’t reach the user by itself

One important difference that we’ve had to adapt to to develop Firefox OS is that before it reaches the user, an operating system needs to integrate with other parts, created by other organizations. Unlike the browser, the operating system is not something that we give to users by itself. It is only one layer that goes into a mobile phone and it is important that it connects and collaborates with the other parts that make up a phone experience.

That meant that when we thought about the features and functions that we would like to build in a device there were a lot that we had not a lot of influence over, because we were not creating them. Before we could start thinking about where Firefox OS could excel at, we needed to separate its function within a phone and the mobile ecosystem from that of the other players. In other words, we needed to know what is the job to be done of Firefox OS.

There are 5 layers in the mobile ecosystem

To do this we started breaking down the elements of the mobile ecosystem and define what are the different parts that interact with each other, what is their function and what type of organizations are producing them.

To do this, we looked at what are the steps that content needs to go through from when it’s created by the developer to when it is consumed by the user. A day in the life of content:

  • Information is created and stored on servers by developers in form of content.
  • The bytes need to be transported to their destination, a job assigned to the network equipment providers.
  • As a copy of the information leaves the server, it needs to know to which destination to go. It is important that the content is returned to the person who actually asked for it, not to a random one or to the whole network. This job is done by the network operator, by means of the IP address, whose key role is that of authentication for the ecosystem.
  • Once it has reached the user, the information still needs to be processed on to a screen by a device, which is made by hardware manufacturers.
  • After it is stored on the hardware, the information is organized and consumed by the user through the means of the a user agent, which is the operating system. This is where Firefox OS comes in.

Firefox OS is the interface and the data manager for the user

A user agent is the protective layer between the user and the rest of the ecosystem. It needs to represent the intentions and actions of the end – consumer to the rest of the layers that make up a phone, it needs to translate what is happening at the byte level to the user and in the same time protect against unauthorized access to other data stored on the device.

The job to be done of Firefox OS is not one, but several:

  • it is the interface for the user to the entire mobile ecosystem
  • it represents the user when she wants to interact with the other layers of the phone
  • it organizes the user’s data
  • it surfaces the signals sent by the other parts of the phone
  • it protects the user’s data from unauthorized access

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 2

Every week (or so) I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.



In Google’s Q4 2012 earnings report Larry Page talked about the current issues of “managing supply” of hardware (meaning the problems with LG not being able to deliver as many Nexus 4 devices as are ordered) and of Motorola’s opportunities for innovation. He mentioned battery life and durability as possible areas of focus. Page mentioned that at the moment of acquisition Motorola had a 12 – 18 months product pipeline that Google still needs to deliver on.

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Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 1

Every week (or so) I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.


This week is about updates in the Android ecosystem (Play Store, version distribution), a view of mobile industry leaders of HTML5, stats about big screens on phones and regulation initiatives in the European telecommunications space.



Google now allows all developers to reply to comments directly in the Android Play Store, a feature available until now only to those considered top developers.

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Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 47

Every week (or so) I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.


This week we have updated numbers for Android versions, new focus on business users and yet another Android retail store in Indonesia. ZTE receives funding to expand further into the high-end and Western markets, while the Nokia Lumia line is attacking the emerging markets on both the low and the high end. France Telecom makes a significant investment and partnership with mobile security solution Lookout and tablets forecasts are looking better after series of launches (Windows, Nexus 7 and 10 and iPad Mini)
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Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 46

Every week (or so) I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.


This week is about the opportunities and sources of innovation present in emerging economies for the mobile industry due to the under-development of infrastructure, about Nokia, who is taking more steps to optimize their Asha series to the needs of users in the emerging markets and about network operators in Spain taking seriously the thread of Over The Top services to traditional telecommunications and are launching the RCS suite under the Joyn brand nation-wide.



TechCrunch published a report on the ecosystem that is thriving in Africa around mobile money and payments, spear-headed by the most famous case study of M-Pesa, a service that handles up to a third of Kenya’s GDP. M-Pesa is an offering of the Safaricom network operator, that is part of the Vodafone Group. The phenomenal rise of mobile payments in developing regions is explained by the under-development of infrastructure and the mobile phone’s ability to take over those functions. Banking is one area that is being transformed by mobile, but not the only one. Health care and medical services are also benefiting tremendously from using mobile devices, particularly in hard to reach areas, as well as the practice of agriculture. These developments in the emerging markets need not be seen as local ones, but as a source of innovation that will touch the developed world as well, like in this example from Switzerland. They mean that in order to  meaningfully engage with the population in the emerging markets, one needs to adapt its solutions, which in turn can offer an innovation advantage to take to the more developed markets. And the example of M-Pesa, which is a SIM-based application, shows that network operators can still play an important role in shaping the mobile revolution together with operating system vendors.



Nokia Asha, the device family aimed at the next billion consumers in emerging markets, gets a hardware Facebook button for 2 of its models, the Asha 205, in simple and the dual-SIM versions. The development is a joint collaboration between Facebook and Nokia, who recognize the importance of social media in the emerging markets. On smart-light devices such as the these S40 Series-based models the services that are integrated by default tend to get more usage and engagement from users that they would typically get on modern smartphone environments such as Android and iOS. This is due partly to the relative scarcity and high costs of bandwidth, GSM or WiFi, in these regions, that limit the user propensity to download a variety of other services. Nokia has also built a feature called Slam in its Asha models that allows for content transfer from one phone to the other through the Bluetooth protocol. This is also a reflection of the unique market conditions in developing economies   in terms of bandwidth availability. The S40 Series platform, that the Asha series is based on, has 675 million users currently, most of which are older devices, as only 6.5 million of them have been bought in the last quarter and the number is trending down.



Mobile operators in Spain have announced the nation-wide launch of Rich Communication Services under the Joyn brand. This enables users to chat and enrich messaging or voice calls by exchanging images or video simultaneously during calls. It is initially offered through Android apps, with a version on iOs to follow. Additional functions such as VoIP are planned, as well and the first devices with the application already embedded will hit the market at the beginning of 2013. This development is the result of operators seeing diminishing usage and returns from traditional telecommunications services that the smartphone disruption placed upon them and developing solutions to compete with the Over The Top service providers. The Spanish operators behind this announcement: Telefonica, Orange and Vodafone are among the early-adopters of this trend, together with Deutsche Telekom and MetroPCs, who have also adopted Joyn.


Following the US Congressional report on the safety of equipment produced by Huawei and ZTE, the Indian government is also expected to announce soon whether or not it will open investigations into the two Chinese companies.

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 45

Every week (or so) I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.



Jolla unveiled more of their MeeGo-based operating system, called Sailfish,  and announced a partnership with DNA, a Finnish operator. The user interface has a slick, clear, minimalist design and among the top features are advanced multi-tasking and app management tools and minimalization of screen real estate occupied by system indicators. Sailfish is being developed not just for mobile phones, but across the whole range of screen sizes, from TVs to cars, although initial focus is on phones. The operating system is based on the Mer project, also used by Tizen and the application development environment is based on Qt, QML and HTML5. The operating system will be also able to run Android apps, with support from Open Mobile and HTML5 support is provided by PhoneGap / Cordoba.

Although small, Finland is described as one of the most innovative mobile markets. It has a mature industry that is a pioneer in providing advanced data services and one of the first to deploy a commercial LTE service, which now covers over half the population. DNA is the leading operator in terms of LTE coverage in the country.



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Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 44

Every week (or so) I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

Preliminary Q3 results for smartphone shipments are out. Samsung is on top with 56 million sales, followed by Apple (27 million), Huawei (16 million), Sony (8.8 million), ZTE (8 million), HTC (7.8 million), RIM (7.4) million, LG (7.2 million), Lenovo (7 million), Nokia (6.3 million). Biggest changes from Q2 are accounted for by Motorola, who is no longer in the top 10 and the entry of Lenovo.

The numbers reflect 2 key trends: the increasing penetration of computer manufacturers in the mobile device market and the increasing influence of Asia-based OEMs in the top tiers of the industry.

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