Firefox OS is launching in 16 emerging markets this year

Firefox OS
Firefox OS will launch with devices like the ZTE Open

Mozilla has been quiet on the Firefox OS announcement front for some time, but CEO Gary Kovacs broke the silence on Monday when he revealed the new mobile operating system will launch in June.

The initial Firefox OS release will include five countries: Venezuela, Poland, Brazil, Portugal and Spain.

A Firefox OS release in 11 additional countries will follow before the end of the year, Kovacs said at AllThingsD's "Dive Into Mobile" conference today. Those additional countries will likely include Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro and Serbia, which Mozilla mentioned during Mobile World Congress 2013 in February.

Update: A Mozilla spokesperson has been in contact to re-confirm the countries it will be targeting first: "The initial countries where Firefox OS devices will be available to consumers are Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela. Exact launch timing is decided by and dependent on our partners."

Those initial Firefox OS release countries are what Mozilla considers "emerging markets where Firefox is particularly strong" and where the world isn't viewed through high-end devices, like it is in Silicon Valley, said Kovacs.

Starting small

So what does that mean for customers eager to get their hands on a Firefox OS device, especially those in major markets like the U.S.?

Kovacs said that HTML5-powered handsets won't launch in the U.S. until 2014.

"It didn't make sense for us to launch a version-one device around the world," he explained.

A release spearheaded by affordable devices like the ZTE Open in emerging markets first could give the nonprofit Mozilla a chance to gain Firefox OS a foothold where it otherwise wouldn't be able to if it launched with an iPhone or Galaxy S4-quality device.

Higher-quality Firefox OS releases could follow in 2014 when manufacturers like Sony - which has already committed to releasing a Firefox OS phone next year - will reveal what they've been cooking in Mozilla's kitchen.

Unfortunately, Kovacs didn't mention any other markets, emerging or not, so the U.K. and Europe could be waiting even longer.

Why Firefox OS?

Kovacs took the time at Dive Into Mobile to make his case for Firefox OS.

"Our whole mission is to stimulate the ecosystem," Kovacs said, adding that "the number of people, websites and experiences exploded" when Mozilla debuted its Firefox browser a decade ago. Mozilla is hoping the same thing will eventually happen in the mobile world with Firefox OS.

In a TechRadar Q&A last week, Firefox OS Head of Engineering Jonathan Nightingale said that Mozilla's goal is to "push hard" against the duopoly held by Apple and Google.

"Five years ago, you saw the birth of iOS and Android but the web couldn't do it and Google are still going out there, telling that story," Nightingale told us.

"They say you need native applications to have rich capability. Five years ago that was true, now that feels really outdated. Holding any of these Firefox OS phones is proof of that."

We'll watch closely to see how Mozilla's step-by-step roll out does in a tough OS market.

Michael Rougeau

Michael Rougeau is a former freelance news writer for TechRadar. Studying at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Northeastern University, Michael has bylines at Kotaku, 1UP, G4, Complex Magazine, Digital Trends, GamesRadar, GameSpot, IFC, Animal New York, @Gamer, Inside the Magic, Comic Book Resources, Zap2It, TabTimes, GameZone, Cheat Code Central, Gameshark, Gameranx, The Industry, Debonair Mag, Kombo, and others.

Micheal also spent time as the Games Editor for, and was the managing editor at GameSpot before becoming an Animal Care Manager for Wags and Walks.