What it is: Firefox OS was an attempt to create a new mobile operating system for smartphones and tablets.
Once upon a time, almost everyone used Internet Explorer to browse the Internet. Then Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, decided to let it languish for years until security got so bad that everyone switched to Firefox. Eventually Google released Chrome and while Chrome slowly took over the browser market, Firefox decided to create their own operating system and divert their resources to making FireFox OS.
The grand idea was to have an operating system capable of running on mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, iOS and Android had already beaten them to the punch. While Blackberry and even Microsoft struggled to compete in the mobile operating system market, Firefox thought it was a good idea to continue developing their own mobile operating system.
Eventually Firefox stopped innovating as fast as Chrome so everyone started switching to Chrome. Meanwhile Firefox’s share of the browser market slowly sank until it has gone from the number one alternative browser to a has-been behind Chrome. What happened?
The answer is simple. Firefox lost track of their whole reason for existing. Imagine if Microsoft ignored the operating system market on PCs to focus solely on mobile operating systems? Eventually they would lose everything, which is exactly what Firefox did.
The big problem was that Firefox thought they could compete with iOS and Android, long after both operating systems had already established themselves. When you can only offer another me-too product, why would anyone want to choose yours?
The answer was obvious. Nobody did, so Firefox OS is disappearing and taking the Firefox browser with it. The lesson is simple. Don’t ignore your core competency but do try something new to continue to stay relevant. Firefox had the right idea to target the mobile market, but pursuing the operating system market in mobile was simply too late.
In business, simple decisions can lead you down the wrong path like taking a wrong turn and getting completely lost in a strange city. When making decisions, look at the possibilities before taking a choice. Firefox should have seen that taking the mobile operating system market was too difficult and saved their resources for something else. You don’t want to bang your head against the leader because the leader already has a head start.
As Firefox OS disappears, expect Firefox the browser to slowly wither away at the same time. It was fun while it lasted but now it’s over and another hard-earned lesson for everyone to digest as they look towards the future and hope not to repeat the same mistakes that Firefox did.