(Pocket-lint) - It's the year when smart TVs get even smarter thanks to advancing operating systems. We've seen LG webOS, Android TV used in Philips sets, Tizen for Samsung, and now Firefox OS makes its way to the latest Panasonic 4K TVs.
Mozilla Firefox is a well-known web browser; an alternative for Internet Explorer, Chrome, et al. But Firefox OS for televisions is a different dedicated operating system, built on the open-source HTML5 language - a key feature because any developer can make an app for the platform, rather than for a specific manufacturer which could otherwise result in delays of the latest and greatest content.
We cite what the OS brings to Panasonic TVs as that's the first company to jump on board and use the system, plus the platform where we've witnessed a walk-through of what's on offer via My Home Screen 2.0. So what's Firefox OS all about?
Firefox OS: 10 key features
Live TV, Apps, Devices all in one place
Firefox OS pools together the core inputs into one home screen, presented as selectable circles called Decks. By default that's live TV, Apps (which you can edit as you please), and Devices (consoles, network drives and so forth).
A personal homepage: pin your favourites
Access any one of those three mainstays and it's possible to download, select and then pin, say, an app like Netflix to your homepage - it'll appear as an additional Deck for quick access - without the need to load up a separate input.
No restrictions to pins
It needn't be an app, though, you could pin your three favourite channels to the homepage as individual access points. No need to dig through the poorly ordered electronic programme guide (EPG) again. You could even pin a favourite webpage tab to the homepage to catch-up on the news, if desired.
A growing range of apps
Apps already in the App Market include Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube (Panasonic claims to be "in talks" to deliver 4K content here - no confirmation whether that will be ready for device launch). As developers can jump on board and create their own apps, we anticipate region-specific extras such as BBC iPlayer, 4oD, and so forth.
A full browser experience
Firefox, naturally, is the web browser available on board. Using the TV remote's arrow keys delivers a slow and clunky browsing experience, but with a touchpad remote it's possible to skirt around pages like a trackpad, for a more fluid experience.
In this particular Panasonic My Home Page 2.0 guise there's a search function that sifts through all available sources - including installed apps such as Netflix. No need to open said apps, it'll dig into the relevant data for you.
Adjust homepage order
Don't like where you've pinned an app to the homepage? It's possible to move the position, or delete it from your shortlist. If the number of icons exceeds a single screen then it's possible to scroll through left and right on the carousel - but we wouldn't go too over the top by pinning dozens of apps as it'll get too busy.
Single row simplicity
For simplicity's sake Firefox OS use a single row interface on the homepage. Dig into Apps and Devices and it's a seven by three grid arrangement, also editable.
Source HDMI ports, SD card slots, AV inputs, USB and networked drives all from the one place. However, it's not possible to rename inputs, so "HDMI 2" can't be "PlayStation 4", for example, which is a change we hope to see made in the future.
This is something we've not seen in action, but a feature for the future: installed apps will, with permission, be able to present alerts on screen. Used wisely this could be a great feature, delivering alerts of favourite programmes, highlights and suggestions. What we wouldn't want to see is a tweet stream popping up on screen at all times.
So does Firefox OS trump the competition? It's similar in look and feel to LG webOS, albeit more stripped back, and although not as app-packed as Android, is still a slick, customisable solution with plenty of content.
All Panasonic 4K TVs in 2015 will feature the operating system (with the exception of the 4K entry-level CX680 model), making it a standard feature, rather than one reserved for the priciest sets. That's a big deal for prospective TV buyers, as unlike the last generation of Viera panels, which saw apps such as Netflix take an age to arrive, Firefox OS puts Panasonic on a far more level playing field than before.