The world of smartphone operating systems is dominated by two major players: Apple, the developer of iOS, used on iPhones and iPads, and Google, which developed the popular Android operating system, installed on Samsung, Sony and Motorola phones, among others.
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One of the most fascinating announcements to come out of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February is a new operating system for smartphones. The Mozilla Foundation, which champions open-source software, announced the launch of Firefox OS, which will offer an alternative to the leading operating systems for mobile phones and focus primarily on younger users in developing markets.
The Israeli startup Everything.me played a major role in developing Firefox OS. Mozilla is one of the firm’s investors, together with Telefonica Digital, Singtel Innov8 of Singapore, Horizon Ventures, owned by well-known businessman and philanthropist Ka-shing Li of Hong Kong and Israeli BRM. So far, Everything.me has raised $37.5 million.
Since the company's establishment in 2010, originally under the name DoAT, it has developed a new approach to mobile searches that suits the specific needs of users — people who are on the go and use small-screen devices to connect to the Internet. Traditional search engines, such as Google or Bing, present results as a list of links, in textual form. Everything.me’s search results present icons that lead to applications or Web pages, depending on the search’s context. For example, a search for “sushi” on Everything.me’s search engine will lead to pages in applications or websites that show nearby sushi restaurants; its technology is deeply integrated in Firefox OS.
“We turn smartphones into dynamic phones,” says Joey Simhon, one of Everything.me’s founders and its chief technical officer. “They way we see things, smartphones are pretty static today. Every time you take it out of your pocket, it’s the same telephone with a screen that has the applications you downloaded in the past at any given moment. A dynamic phone is one that adapts itself and the applications you need to that moment. We install, on average, more than 100 applications on the telephone, but actually use less than ten. We have a graveyard of apps on our phone.”
The applications that appear on the user’s home screen will be sourced from three places: applications installed on the device, applications based on websites built in HTML5 that are available on the Web with no need for installation, and applications available in stores (known as store apps).
“We want people to take a dynamic phone out of their pockets,” Simhon says, "a phone that understands what the user wants, puts applications on the screen in the right context and does all of that on top of the integrative experience of the home screen."
Although Everything.me was a major partner with Mozilla in the development of the Firefox OS, at this stage Firefox devices cater mostly to developing markets, and Everything.me would like its products to be available on additional platforms. Later this year it plans to inaugurate a launcher, a graphic smartphone interface that changes the device’s configuration. Like the launcher inaugurated by Facebook Home this week, Everything.me’s product will be adapted for Android devices and available for free download. Users can also get acquainted with some of the product’s capabilities by surfing the company’s website on the smartphone’s browser.
Everything.me employs 40 staffers and has doubled in size since last November. According to Simhon, Everything.me is expanding its R&D, content and marketing teams. He expects the firm employ 60 to 70 people by year’s end.