Mozilla’s Fox Tries to Steal Spotlight and Outrun Google’s Android

Photograph by Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla, with the Firefox logo during a news conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

While many European technology companies have pared back their presence at this week’s Mobile World Congress, Silicon Valley’s Mozilla is leaving a noticeably bigger footprint.

The maker of the popular Firefox web browser sent about a hundred employees — which is a sixth of its staff and a 50 percent increase from last year — and prepared a much larger stand to help it showcase its new open mobile operating system.

The hope? That by letting loose its fox in the smartphone world, it can steal some of the spotlight from Google’s Android, which dominates the market.

“We have made a more significant investment this year because we have more to say and show,” Peter Scanlon, senior director of global branding at Mozilla, said Sunday in an interview in Barcelona.

Mozilla’s new marketing message, “blaze your own path,” shows the fox from its logo unleashed and following people as they move around to explain how they can access the Internet regardless of where they are.

The question remains whether that campaign, which included a lavish presentation in front of hundreds at the luxurious Hotel Arts Barcelona, was convincing. Mozilla’s mobile software, first discussed a year ago, has been a long time coming. Phone buyers looking for a bargain may be tempted to see whether a new generation of feature phones — such as Nokia’s 105 — may do the trick and be available faster.

Mozilla does have some big names in its corner. As I wrote about yesterday, more than a dozen wireless carriers including billionaire Carlos Slim’s America Movil are supporting Mozilla’s open mobile operating system to make a range of cheaper smartphones. Firefox-based devices may arrive as early as the second quarter, Mozilla said.

We’ll see how fast and far this fox can run.

–With assistance from Cornelius Rahn.

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