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Firefox OS Devices Coming To Sprint

Seven carriers worldwide will be the first mobile operators to support Mozilla's HTML5-based mobile OS.

Firefox maker Mozilla announced Monday that Sprint, along with six other carriers worldwide, will be among the first mobile operators to support Mozilla's HTML5-based mobile OS.

Previously called the Open Web Devices platform (OWD), the mobile platform is now called Firefox OS, Mozilla confirms. Two device makers, Alcatel One Touch and ZTE, have been tapped as the first companies to make Firefox OS devices using Snapdragon chips from Qualcomm (no word yet on specs).

It's not clear when Sprint will offer the Web-based smartphones. The first devices are slated to launch in Brazil in early 2013 through Spain-based telecom Telefónica. Presumably, a Firefox OS device will surface on Sprint several months later. "Firefox Mobile OS can help us drive an HTML5-based platform for creating lower cost smartphone options for prepaid, postpaid and wholesale customers,” Fared Adib, Sprint's product chief, says in a statement.

The idea behind Firefox OS is to offer cheaply priced smartphones that rely entirely on Web technologies instead of proprietary systems such as iOS or Windows Phone. Firefox OS is based on Mozilla's Boot to Gecko project, which turns the Firefox Web browser's rendering engine into the core of a mobile operating system.

Everything on a Firefox OS device is based on HTML5, including the phone dialer, messaging, and photo gallery. This approach allows Web apps to take full advantage of the device's hardware capabilities such as a gyroscope or camera, something that is more difficult to achieve on current smartphones, according to Mozilla.

Boot to Gecko was introduced in 2011, and in early 2012 Mozilla announced a partnership with Telefónica to help develop and launch the first handsets based on the newly named Firefox OS.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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