First Firefox OS smartphone goes on sale in India for $33

Mozilla faces fierce competition from all sides as it enters the low-cost market where growth is expected to be 'immense'

Mozilla today announced that a smartphone powered by its Firefox OS mobile operating system went on sale in India, one of the key markets that the company has targeted.

The phone, dubbed Cloud FX, is made by Intex Technologies, an Indian manufacturer of mobile phones and other computer hardware products. It went on sale Monday for 1,999 rupees, or about $33, on the Snapdeal.com shopping website.

Two months ago, Mozilla said that Intex would be one of two Indian device manufacturers -- the other was Spice -- that were working on phones generated by a partnership between the U.S. open-source developer and Spreadtrum, a fabless chipmaker headquartered in China.

Mozilla and Spreadtrum first showed the low-price chipset at February's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"With support from Intex, Firefox OS smartphones in the ultra-low-cost category will redefine the entry-level smartphone and create strong momentum in Asia," said Li Gong, president of Mozilla Corp., on a company blog today.

Intex's Cloud FX features a 3.5-in. screen, a 2-megapixel camera, a 1GHz processor and dual SIMMs. The smartphone supports the English, Hindi and Tamil languages.

According to Snapdeal.com, the Cloud FX's price tag of 1,999 rupees is a markdown from 2,490 rupees ($41).

In June, when Mozilla and Spreadtrum announced that Intex and Spice would be selling Firefox OS smartphones, the latter -- but not the former -- said that the devices could cost as little as $25.

Mozilla is late to the mobile operating system business. And even in India, where research firm IDC said the smartphone market had "immense potential," it faces fierce competition from global brands like Samsung and Motorola; newcomers such as China's Xiaomi, which entered the Indian market last month; Google, with its Android One platform; Microsoft, which has trumpeted its free Windows Phone OS; and a host of strong domestic firms, notably Micromax.

By IDC's estimate, of the 18.4 million smartphones shipped in India in the June quarter, 81%, or 14.9 million, were priced under $200. "With the influx of Chinese vendors and Mozilla's plans to enter the smartphone category at the $50 price level, the low-end segment of the smartphone market will become crucial in the coming quarters," IDC said in a research note last week.

Spice, the other Indian ODM (original device manufacturer) backing the Mozilla-Spreadtrum partnership, will start selling its Fire One Mi-FX smartphone on Aug. 29 for 2,299 rupees ($38).

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