Mozilla's CEO Headache Comes Amidst A Challenging Shift To Mobile 

Apr 4 2014, 4:17pm CDT | by

The loud and messy departure of the Mozilla Foundation’s Brendan Eich couldn’t have come at a tricker time for the not-for-profit organization.

Firefox makes the world’s second-most popular desktop browser, but it has been struggling to make a solid impact on mobile at a time when more and more people are going online through smartphones.

Mozilla’s big answer in the last few years has been Firefox OS, an open source, web-based operating system for mobile phones. It has struck partnerships with phone makers like ZTE and Huawei to make $25 smartphones running its low-powered platform. More than a dozen carriers around the world, including Telefonica, have agreed to sell these phone, initially in parts of South America and Eastern Europe.

Selling these cheap web phones is part of Mozilla’s mission of getting the next billion or so people connected to the web.

How many Firefox phones have actually been sold? Mozilla so far has refused to answer that question, but one company official told me earlier this year that sales had been in the low hundreds of thousands, and were far off breaking a million. This is a market where nearly a billion smartphones were sold last year, 785 million of them running Android. In hot pursuit are the likes Microsoft, with far bigger marketing budgets than Mozilla’s.

Mozilla’s divorce with its CEO comes just as it needs to build scale in a cutthroat market, not to mention at a point when its main revenue generator is open to question. Mozilla derives the vast majority of its revenue from a $300 million annual royalty deal with Google, and the contract is up for renewal this November.


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