Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) may be happy — or unhappy — to compete for the top two spots in the smartphone operating system realm, with Android and iOS easily topping other challengers like Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8 or RIM’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry 10, which isn’t even released yet. But not everyone is content with the status quo of the smartphone market, and Mozilla is looking for a shake-up, with its own mobile OS coming out of left field.

Recently, Android has had a major hold on the smartphone market, with a 72.4 percent share of global sales in the third quarter last year. Numbers for the fourth quarter may be slightly weakened by a boosted showing by Microsoft with Windows Phone 8, but Android is still the frontrunner. Apple’s iOS has also been faring well, though taking a slight hit as Android’s popularity continued to rise last year.

Now Android and iOS are looking at renewed competition from RIM’s BlackBerry at the end of this month, and now they could potentially be facing a strong showing from Mozilla early this year. BlackBerry’s former status could help it steal back a chunk of the market share, and if Mozilla’s Firefox can pull off anything like Google’s Android did, Firefox OS could do major damage to Google and Apple’s market shares.

When Google was looking to expand its service offerings and launched its smartphone OS, it quickly rose up the ranks to surpass iOS in global sales. Now Mozilla is similarly looking to expand its offerings and will launch the Firefox OS. While Google has a nice gap between it and the competition, Apple’s iOS is much closer to the next immediate competitor, so any market share that gets stolen from Apple brings it closer to falling out of the second place position for smartphone operating systems.

Though statistics vary depending on the methods used, Mozilla’s Firefox web browser consistently shows up in the top 3 with Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer — statistic agencies W3Counter, NetApplications, StatCounter, and Clicky agree on that. Apple’s Safari browser generally comes in fourth place. If browser popularity can be related to the subsequent operating system popularity, Firefox OS can be expected to hit iOS hard — although, Internet Explorer’s popularity hasn’t exactly been followed by the Windows Phone OS.

Just how Mozilla’s entry into the smartphone war will affect the likes of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and RIM is uncertain, but when sales numbers come out for the fourth quarter of 2012 and show how Windows Phone 8 has affected the sales of Android and iOS devices, a more clear picture will emerge of how Firefox OS will potentially be able to affect competitors’ sales.

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