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Mozilla Firefox OS to take on Ubuntu for Phones with ZTE partnership

While Canonical may have wowed the crowds with its impressive Ubuntu for Phones demonstration, the company is struggling to get the software out of the door and into users' hands - and looks like it is going to be beaten to market by a rival product from Mozilla, the creator of the Firefox web browser.

Dubbed Firefox Mobile OS - previously known under the codename Boot to Gecko or B2G - the software, like Canonical's Ubuntu for Phones, is designed to provide a high-speed and open-standards platform for which developers can create native or HTML5-based web applications. Like Ubuntu for Phones, the core of the Mozilla OS is a Linux kernel, and like Ubuntu for Phones the software is released for free and under an open source licence.

Where Firefox Mobile OS and Ubuntu for Phones differ is in their availability: Ubuntu for Phones is not expected to be available to download until sometime towards the end of February, when a single version designed for use with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone will be released. Mozilla OS, meanwhile, is going to be released pre-installed on at least one smartphone from Chinese mobile manufacturer ZTE.

The as-yet unspecified handsets, due to launch first in Europe, will run Firefox Mobile OS out of the box. Should the launch prove successful, according to ZTE CEO Cheng Lixin an international rollout will surely follow.

As with Android-powered smartphones, the ZTE Firefox Mobile OS handset will be made available as a SIM-free device for outright purchase or subsidised through agreements with European mobile networks - although the company has not yet released details which networks are planning to stock the device. Pricing and availability have also yet to be confirmed.

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