Under a broadened partnership with mobile network operator Telefonica, Sony Mobile is exploring support for Mozilla's new Firefox OS and hopes to release a phone with it next year.
"Our engineers are now working with Firefox OS Mobile and HTML5, evolving technologies which show great potential. In addition, we continue to work with our operator partners, including Telefonica, on a development project with an ambition to bring a product to market in 2014," said Bob Ishida, head of Sony Mobile Communications' products business group, in a statement at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Spain.
Hardware partnerships are crucial to the success of Mozilla's browser-based operating system. ZTE, Alcatel and Spanish start-up Geeksphone have shown early models of Firefox OS phones, and LG Electronics and Huawei have committed to ship them as well. Unsurprisingly, Samsung is not interested in Firefox OS.
Sony has jumped on the Android bandwagon, but while still a respected electronics designer, hasn't come close to the power of Samsung. There are plenty of other serious challengers too, including Panasonic, LG Electronics and now even Google itself with its Motorola Mobility acquisition.
Telefonica, which has many customers in Latin America, hopes to use Firefox OS to bring smartphones to very cost-conscious buyers in developing markets.
The Geeksphone Peak and Keon, designed for developers rather than a mainstream market, should go on sale through the company's website "in coming weeks", the company said today.
Firefox OS will have a hard time denting the dominance of iOS and Android, but working in its favour is the fact that a browser-based operating system can take advantage of all the work web programmers have already put into building websites and web apps.