How H5OS will Pick up Firefox OS’s Lost Flame
Acadine Sets its Eyes on the Internet of Things
On October of 2008, Google declared war on Apple. The first commercially available Android smartphone, the HTC Dream, was Google’s first boots-on-the-ground effort to take on the iPhone juggernaut. For thereafter, Google and Apple engaged in a harsh campaign of product warfare in an effort to assert dominance over the other. After a few years of both major flagship smartphone battles (quite infamously, the iPhone 5C suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of a coalition of hundreds of budget Android devices) and design skirmishes (Apple’s 2014 signing of the Phablet Deal comes to mind), Google’s Android largely emerged victorious.
Amongst these two superpowers, other smartphone domains battled for relevance. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, Canonical’s Ubuntu, Samsung’s Tizen, and Mozilla’s Firefox OS each hoped to grab a slice of the billions of dollars at stake in this space, but each have been relegated to pecking at the scraps. Some have even given up entirely on competing against Google and Apple.
Heavy-handed metaphors aside, in the real world the two major superpowers of the yesteryears could not continue asserting their dominance by merely clinging to a single avenue of strength, and have needed to diversify its strengths into other fields or risk being usurped by emerging players. In the real world, China is that player, but our little tech bubble has yet to be burst like that. Google and Apple still dominate the market, and are poised to continue doing so with further expansions into wearables and the IoT market. But what if that dominance is at risk? Who could challenge the duopoly of Android and iOS, our tech’s United States and U.S.S.R., in the mobile technological space?
Such an operating system has been in the works in China (fitting, I might say), and today is ready to make its debut. Meet H5OS, the successor to Firefox OS that promises to rekindle the lost flame of mobile OS competition. You won’t be seeing a device running H5OS in the palm of your hands just yet, but we’re here to explain to you how Acadine Technologies plans on taking the world by storm via an interview we’ve conducted with the company’s Vice President of Product Development, Mr. James Ho.
For those of you who are unaware, HTML5 is a language used by web developers to structure and present web content. HTML is the standard markup language that is maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and HTML5 is the fifth iteration that was finalized back in October of 2014. Content presented using HTML5, and subsequently developers who know how to write in HTML5, have exploded since the new standard’s introduction and will only continue doing so as time moves on. While market research has shown that consumers still prefer native apps over web apps, Acadine Technologies is hoping to leverage the massive pool of developer talent as well as invest in the growth trends towards HTML5 expansion in order to expand H5OS.
The OS is HTML5 based, which according to the company gives it the advantage of being “more versatile, adaptable, and memory efficient than other existing mobile operating systems.” Acadine Technologies hopes that smart device makers will adopt H5OS for their future products, ranging from smartphones to smart cameras to whatever IoT device the market has yet to experience.
At this point, you might be wondering how H5OS compares to Firefox OS. H5OS is not a fork of Firefox OS, but it is based off of the Boot2Gecko source. Acadine Technologies believes that Boot2Gecko is a solid foundation to base H5OS off of, as there are already millions of commercially deployed devices running off of it. When compared to other bases, Acadine feels that the many device related APIs available for Boot2Gecko made it a more suitable candidate to base its H5OS off of, at least compared to the Chromium OS project. The differences between Firefox OS and H5OS, though, are mostly philosophical. In a previous interview with the Wall Street Journal, CEO of Acadine Technologies and former Mozilla President Dr. Li Gong stated that Mozilla’s status as a non-profit hindered its ability to raise capital and scale Firefox OS. As such, he splintered off to form Acadine Technologies and H5OS, they were able to raise $100m in its first funding round from Tsinghua Unigroup. Acadine’s main focus is on “smart devices” (devices running in what’s known as the Internet of Things) and will follow its own road map to tackle the market. Acadine has employed a full team of engineers to develop H5OS and to work on making it modular and scalable to the different devices they’re targeting. As such, the discontinuation of Firefox OS for smartphones will have little effect on Acadine’s goals with H5OS.
H5OS Steps up to the Plate
Acadine’s goal of making H5OS is no joke, and we can see the first glimpses of it as consumers in the company’s flexible design structure. H5OS’s design has two key products to speak of, its ‘CORE’ and ‘Feature Packs’ which offer customization to its device partners. Smart device makers can use H5OS CORE to enable smart features on their device, and can quickly go to market by only relying on cross-compatibility with other smart devices. With the use of H5OS Feature Packs, they can extend their device’s capabilities with additional applications and user experience enhancements aimed at specific product markets.
Today, Acadine is releasing H5OS Core 1.0 to its partners worldwide. The release includes all of the technologies required to operate most smart IoT devices, such as telephony, touch/non-touch capabilities, and various connectivity and sensor systems. Acadine is working with ARM as well as chipset makers such as Qualcomm in order to optimize H5OS on relevant smart device chipsets such as the recently announced Snapdragon 210.
“We are excited to see ACADINE working to enable and optimize H5OS on our Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 and 212, 4G-LTE equipped processors that can enable Voice over LTE, clear voice, and fast download speeds. We look forward to seeing H5OS shipping on a variety of smart devices across multiple segments and expect to see the first devices using Snapdragon processors and H5OS to be introduced later this year,” – Keith Kressin, Senior Vice President, Product Management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
Finally, Acadine has announced its intentions to work with device makers such as Alcatel in order to ship H5OS on future devices.
Growing the Ecosystem
Obviously, as H5OS is a new player in the field, it has some expansion to do. The company is avoiding the smartphone market space for now due to overcrowding on that front (though H5OS can certainly run on smartphone devices). Acadine simply sees opportunities elsewhere, and we can’t blame them. After all, 2016 will be the year for the Internet of Things and we’ve seen how many players are looking to enter this emerging space. The competition is heating up, and Acadine believes it can stake a piece in this lucrative pie before it’s eaten up by the giants of the industry. They have $100m in investor confidence so far, and are in the process of acquiring more investments internationally to realize the goals of their venture.
How exactly will Acadine convince investors to jump on the HTML5-OS train when other competitors to Google and Apple’s dominance have been squashed? Quite simply, it’s because Acadine is playing a whole different ball game by focusing on IoT rather than smartphones. HTML5 offers a more consistent user experience for both developers working on web apps for the ecosystem as well as consumers who are using these apps on the smart devices. Acadine is hoping that it can attract future investors by shining a light on its strengths in the wide-open IoT space. We’ve talked before how there are so many players looking to compete for dominance in the coming smart device war, and it seems that Acadine is charging right into the field.
Developers, Developers, Developers!
Since H5OS is HTML5-based, developers will not have to learn any new tricks when trying to create products for the ecosystem. No special tools are required, either, but Acadine does hint at potentially releasing a bundle pack of tools for developers to get started on developing for H5OS. Although Acadine has no intention of directly bringing developer devices to market (ala Google’s Nexus program), the company has mentioned releasing a reference board for any developers looking to test their software directly on an H5OS platform. However, many widely-available commercial solutions such as Qualcomm’s DragonBoard and the Raspberry Pi 2 enable developers to readily test their HTML5 apps on cheap hardware. According to Linaro CEO George Grey as quoted in Acadine’s official H5OS press release, H5OS is in the process of being ported to the 96Boards compliant DragonBoard 410c to accelerate development with Acadine’s IoT device maker partners.
The Future Ahead
Acadine obviously has a lot to prove with H5OS. Although Mozilla’s Firefox OS is not dead yet, they’ve shown us just how difficult it is to compete against the likes of Google and Apple. We have yet to see how Mozilla plans to handle the IoT space, but Acadine has no intentions on waiting to let anyone beat them in the market. They’re going ahead with their HTML5-based OS, and are hoping to ride the growing wave of HTML5 web apps to eventually be poised to stake a large piece of the IoT prize. From the bits we’ve pieced together about the firm and its software, it seems that there is a solid foundation at play here. But even solid software solutions aren’t enough on their own without a proper way to monetize, scale, and expand the ecosystem. Acadine will be showcasing demo devices running H5OS at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and we hope to see what they have in store for us and the world this year and the next.