Meet the OS Google and Apple should worry about

Microsoft and Blackberry are desperate to cement themselves as the No. 3 mobile software maker. Don't look now, but here comes Firefox.

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Firefox OS is a lightweight, inexpensive operating system for phones being developed by the Mozilla Foundation, the group that makes the popular Firefox web browser. Why is Firefox going in this direction? After all, Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) and Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) combined control over 90% of the mobile OS market. Attempts by Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) and Blackberry (BBRY) to cement third place -- with market share in the low single digits -- have proved expensive and not-so-successful. Firefox OS isn't going after the top of the market -- at least not yet. Introduced earlier this year, the operating system is initially aimed at low-cost handsets in developing markets.

Firefox OS is based on Linux and is open source. It is designed to allow web-like HTML apps to directly control a device's hardware using JavaScript and so-called web API's. Mozilla's interest is in establishing or cementing web technologies, as opposed to some of the closed approaches of other big players. So far, initial Firefox phones have been low-frills affairs. But Taiwanese giant Foxconn -- the world's largest manufacturer of electronic devices -- is going to put some weight behind Firefox OS. (Foxconn, of course, puts together devices for Apple and Nokia (NOK).) Here's a closer look at the revolutionary operating system.

- Last updated June 04 2013 12:42 PM ET
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