By Robert Schoon ( | First Posted: Aug 02, 2013 05:11 PM EDT

(Photo : Telefonica)

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser and now Firefox OS for smartphones, announced on Thursday that it was launching its smartphones in two South American countries, with more to follow. In a market dominated by two major operating systems, the Latin American launch will be an important proving ground for Firefox OS.

Firefox OS is coming to two South American countries first, just a month after Mozilla launched Firefox OS in Spain and then Poland. Mozilla, with partner Telefonica, announced that they would be launching devices with Firefox OS in Columbia and Venezuela, starting Aug. 1.

(Credit: Mozilla)

Two devices will carry the upstart operating system, the Alcatel OneTouch Fire, and the ZTE Open, which also debuted in Spain. The OneTouch Fire will cost Bs. 1,739 (the equivalent of about $277) in Venezuela, while the ZTE Open will cost Bs 1,159 ($184) on a contract. In Columbia, both smartphones cost 199,900 pesos, or about $100, on a prepaid plan. With a one-year contract, you can knock that down to 99,900 pesos (about $50). Brazil is the next country to get a Firefox OS launch, which will happen sometime towards the end of the year, according to Telefonica.

Firefox OS, the open-source Linux-based operating system, is Mozilla's attempt to compete with for-profit and more closed smartphone operating systems with an open standard and web-based alternative.

"Firefox OS powers the first smartphones built entirely on Web technologies and will stimulate an inspiring new wave of innovation for the Web," said Jay Sullivan, Mozilla Chief Operating Officer in a statement on Mozilla's blog. "We are proud to work with partners like Telefonica which see the potential to deliver an experience for first time smartphone users which will delight them and really put the power of the Web in everyone's hands."

Part of the reason Mozilla is targeting Latin America is their mission to provide an open mobile alternative for low-cost and mid-range phones in emerging markets that are just starting to take off, according to TechCrunch. More open standards also means that wireless companies - especially less powerful wireless companies in places other than the U.S. - get a lot more say over what devices, features, and software to support.

As Latinos Post has mentioned, a 2012 World Bank study showed that Latin America leads the world in mobile growth. Right now, more than 84 percent of Latin America subscribes to a mobile service - either prepaid or postpaid - and around 98 percent of the population has a working mobile cell signal. And while feature phones still dominate outside major markets, there is plenty of potential growth in low-cost and mid-range smartphones, especially as they become more common and prices drop.

While prices for the devices in Venezuela are not exactly rock bottom, it will be interesting to see if and how Mozilla's Firefox OS catches on in Latin America. A lot of success in such a growing market could actually help the non-profit company's insurgent Firefox OS gain ground against the two giants - Apple and Google - which is something that no other operating system has successfully accomplished yet. 

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