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We had seen of the ashes of Mozilla’s Firefox OS mobile project. So, after failing this project KaiOS has launched in 2017.
Now 85 million phones are now already shipped in more than 100 markets with these handset brand Nokia and India’s Jio Feature phone. You have seen KaiOS now has Google Assistant and Google services natively into KaiOS phones such as Google Maps, and the debut of a YouTube app — one of the most popular apps of all on smartphones — for KaiOS. For context, KaiOS (based in San Diego but with the majority of its R&D in Taiwan) raised $22 million from Google last year and had already worked to put basic Assistant and Maps functionality on its phones.
Despite their close working and investment relationship, Codeville also admits that Android is also KaiOS’s biggest competitor, too, since it is the OS that powers the devices that are most likely to rival feature phones in terms of price and functionality.
Android may be a rival, but it’s also a template of sorts for KaiOS. Up to now, the feature phone startup has made small revenues from licensing, said Codeville, but the business model for KaiOS is mostly focused around revenues from its app store, and soon from what it hopes will be a lot of advertising around content and apps that people use through the KaiOS browser, in the form of KaiAds.
Available to developers in the form of an SDK, this is a supply-side platform that will tailor ads to work specifically on KaiOS and other feature phones, a segment that hasn’t really been addressed that well up to now because so many feature phones have smaller screens compared to smartphones, and have not really been designed to work with Internet-based services. One of the key features of KaiAds, the company says, is that it renders ads in 200 milliseconds or less.
If advertising is KaiOS’s stick, then its suite of ‘how-to’ content and services, Life, will be the carrot, so to speak. Codeville would not go so far as to say that this is the company’s effort at corporate social responsibility — “We’re just a startup,” he protested — but he did confirm that the service does serve a dual purpose. It’s not just an effort to get people more acquainted with using the services, but in doing so, it will help grease the wheels of KaiOS’s business model.
“If we want to be sustainable and have a long term life of our own, we have to develop the monetization,” he said. Life, he added, will be very localised and will roll out country by country, likely starting with regions in Africa.