06/10/13

Creating Economic Opportunity through Firefox OS

I believe one of the most exciting aspects of Firefox OS is its potential to create economic opportunity (and doing so in new and innovative ways). It also brings up some of the more interesting questions. Let me explain:

Apple announced today that they paid out 10 billion USD to their iOS developers both through direct app sales as well as in-app purchases. 5 billion USD of those were paid out just last year (which points to accelerated growth of the iOS ecosystem). According to Apple this represents 74% of the total market for mobile phone app purchases (with Android accounting for 20% and others for the remaining 6%).

Further take into account that mobile phones are not only creating direct economic opportunity through their app stores but also enable numerous other forms of generated revenue and you get an interesting picture (e.g. e-commerce which originates from a mobile phone; eBay reported 13 billion USD in gross merchandise sales going through their mobile app in 2012 alone).

Consider that Firefox OS plays a different game – both from a technical as well as a target market perspective (using the Web as the platform, thus being much more open and targeting emerging markets respectively) and the really fascinating question becomes: Outside of the obvious economic opportunities "direct on-device commerce through app stores" and mobile/e-commerce as well as content consumption (music, videos, books) – which other forms of economic opportunity can we enable and drive through the device? And in this context: What can we (Mozilla) do to foster and/or enable this?

We are already seeing interesting opportunities especially in emerging markets – from mobile banking for the previously unbanked (e.g. Safaricom's and Vodafone's M-Pesa) to market information systems for farmers (using SMS messaging - e.g. Intuit's Fasal) and much more.

I strongly believe that "we (mostly) don't know what we don't know". That this is likely one of the biggest opportunities we have with Firefox OS. And that it will mostly be the communities/entrepreneurs on the ground who will create and capture these opportunities.

The question remains: What can we, as Mozilla, do to inspire, enable, foster and grow these ventures? What is missing? What do we need to create to make this happen?

EDIT June 11th: Eric Tyler pointed out the following projects in addition to the ones I listed - The World Bank's M2Work Competition, Wikipedia Zero, Souktel as well as the World Bank's Maximizing Mobile report.