China’s second largest smartphone manufacturer, ZTE, and Mozilla, developers of the Firefox web browser, are planning to introduce and new mobile operating system this year. This is part of ZTE’s plan to “create a better balance of products using various operating systems,” according to spokesman David Dai Shu.

ZTE currently uses Android on about 90 percent of its smartphones, with the rest of their handsets being Windows-based. ZTE is currently in talks with carriers to introduce phones using the new operating system to reduce its dependence on Android. Whether this is due to recent patent litigation or simple to diversify their range of handsets is unclear.

New or Not?

David Dai Shu has said that “We are trying to increase our efforts in coming up with our own operating system, while introducing products based on Android.” This quote is interesting, because by implying that ZTE would have some ownership of the new OS, it raises the issue of whether or not the operating system in question is Mozilla’s Firefox OS, which we’ve known about since 2011 when it was known as Boot To Gecko.

Unlike Alibaba’s Aliyun OS, which is based directly on Android, Firefox OS is based on Linux. While this may allow easy ports of Android apps to Firefox OS, it neatly sidesteps the issues that Aliyun OS has with Google. Even if ZTE and Mozilla are building a different operating system, it would likely incorporate the work that has gone into Firefox OS so far.

Is This a Good Thing?

With this news and the recent issues with Google and Acer over Aliyun OS, it’s clear that companies are trying to carve out their own space away from Android, but that may not be a winning strategy. Aside from tech-savvy early adopters, consumers will generally go with a name they know over an unknown. Even big names like RIM and Microsoft are struggling against Android and iOS. While Mozilla has some brand recognition via Firefox, this is still small compared to the competition.

Do you think that more operating systems on the market is good, in the spirit of “competition breeds innovation?” Or do you think that this will simply mean more choices for consumers, whether or not they are better choices?