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PreCentral: ZTE to launch Firefox OS smartphone, not webOS

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ZTE to launch Firefox OS smartphone, not webOS

Brace for the truth bucket of cold water, folks, for it's coming in hard and fast. It's been a long time since we've had to deal with Taiwanese electronics 'news' outlet Digitimes on our pages here at webOS Nation, but today we find them in our sights. What has brought on the truth bucket this morning? Digitimes published a 131-word piece today that claims Chinese telecom manufacturer ZTE plans to launch an Open webOS-based smartphone in the fourth quarter of this year. Problem is, that's not true in any way, form, or fashion.

Well, there is a tiny nugget of truth in the report that snowballed into this wrongness, and it is that ZTE plans to launch a new smartphone on a new operating system in the coming months. Problem is, ZTE's smartphone is going to run Firefox OS, not Open webOS. This news has been widely reported today, and in case you're doubting the report from a reputable organization like Reuters, ZTE cross-posted it onto their own press center website.

How did this news turn into a report that ZTE was going to produce a webOS smartphone? Poor machine translation. ZTE Executive Vice President He Shiyou was interviewed yesterday Sohu.com and C114, in which he discussed ZTE's smartphone plans. The problem is that the interview was conducted and published in Chinese, and automated machine translataions still aren't what they need to be to handle transcribed Chinese speech. What we ended up with was multiple mentions of "a web OS", which some - Digitimes included - have taken to literally mean HP's open source project-in-progress webOS.

Except that He was talking about Firefox OS as a web-based operating system. Things were further muddled in the machine translation when Sohu's interviewer brought up Palm, HP, and webOS, though He never mentioned our even referred to favored operating system. He did do a lot of talking about how web-based operating systems like Firefox OS (and webOS)  have great potential thanks to their open source base on web technologies. But webOS specifically? No, He did not.

Firefox OS does look interesting, and it even seems to have brewed in some of the webOS user interface, lifting almost verbatim the card-based multitasking application management scheme introduced and apparently popularized by webOS back in 2009. webOS and Firefox do share commonalities in that they're both dependent upon web technologies like HTML5 and CSS, but the similarities don't extend all the way to the core. Where webOS is build off of WebKit, Firefox OS is based off of Mozilla's also open source Gecko rendering engine.

The word of the day is prudence. With outlets like Digitimes it's always beneficial to set aside your excitement and check if there's anything to back up their claims before rushing to re-publish it yourself. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut. In this case, our gut check said "Wait a minute..." and in the end we were able to determine that they got it wrong, misinterpreting the stated facts and public knowledge, resulting in a headline that's just flat out wrong. And that's something we just don't need.

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