Mozilla says that in order for Firefox OS phones to bear the Firefox logo, they'll need to meet a variety of software and hardware requirements, including mandatory installations of the Firefox mobile browser and the official Firefox Marketplace app store.
Though the existence of a "blessed hardware" program is similar to Google's model for Android — which only permits compliant devices to ship with the Google Play store, the Gmail app, and other elements — there's a key difference: Mozilla is actively encouraging carriers and developers to embrace alternative app stores and payment methods. A carrier launching a "Powered by Firefox OS" device would very likely have its own branded app store on deck alongside the Firefox Marketplace, for instance, since it could enable direct billing and give the carrier a cut of the sales revenue.
Does Mozilla have the leverage to stop a carrier from going rogue?
As for hardware specs, the base requirements are low: an 800MHz single-core processor, 256MB of RAM, and just a QVGA display — a far cry from even low- to midrange Android phones currently sold in most Western markets. That helps explain the underwhelming ZTE Open and Alcatel One Touch Fire, the first two retail Firefox OS phones to be announced, which are being targeted primarily at emerging markets where smartphone penetration remains relatively low. If Mozilla's strategy works, a device like the Open or Fire could be the first smartphone many wireless subscribers in these markets will own.
Mozilla also says that there are additional requirements for certification set forth in agreements with individual partners, though the terms of those deals are confidential.
Like Android, there's nothing preventing a hardware manufacturer or carrier from going rogue by taking Firefox's open-source elements and launching a device based on it, but Mozilla won't allow it to bear any Firefox branding unless the requirements are met. It's unclear how much leverage Mozilla has with its branding: are customers picking up their first smartphone familiar with Firefox? And if so, does the Firefox name carry weight that would contribute to a purchase decision?
OEMs shouldn't have trouble meeting these hardware requirements
Regardless, an uncertified device without Mozilla's blessing (or branding) would still likely be able to participate in the ecosystem, since the "ecosystem" is simply the web itself. The official Firefox Marketplace, even if left out of the phone's default menu, is simply a website that a Firefox OS-based phone should be able to view and use to download additional apps. That's a contrast to Amazon's situation with its Android devices — the Google Play store can't be installed on a Kindle Fire in any official capacity, and owners use the Amazon Appstore instead.
Firefox OS will launch commercially later this year on a number of carriers globally, including industry giants like Telefónica and Deutsche Telekom. Mainstream manufacturers like LG and Sony have announced their intentions to launch Firefox OS devices; Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs expects US availability in 2014.