In this ever-changing climate for mobile device technology, the Apple iOS, RIM BlackBerry, and Google Android platforms have captured a lion’s share of the market. Over the course of the past few years, other contenders have risen and fallen in an effort to claim a piece of the mobile pie, including efforts by HP with
webOS and Nokia with Symbian and MeeGo platforms. But since then, Nokia has switched over exclusively to the fledgling Windows Phone platform, abandoning Symbian and MeeGo in the process.
Interestingly, MeeGo refused to go down without a fight, and a company called Jolla that’s comprised of mainly ex-Nokia employees has set out to reboot the spirit of MeeGo in a new upcoming handset to be announced in November. Recently, Jolla announced their variant of MeeGo OS codenamed “Sailfish” and their recent expansion efforts in China. I sat down with Jussi Hurmola, CEO of Jolla, to get a bit more information on the company’s recent ambitions and developments.
TechRepublic: Hello Jussi, and thanks for taking the time to interview. What inspired you and other ex-Nokia employees to start Jolla?
Jussi: The technology was the best that we have encountered so far. There were competent people around, we knew that there is an opportunity to do something, and also that this is something that we had been working on for years, so it was a natural way to continue it.
TechRepublic: Because of Nokia’s Bridge program, does Nokia has a vested, controlling interest in Jolla or is Jolla an exclusively autonomous entity?
Jussi: We are an autonomous entity; our investors are private venture capitalists. The Bridge program basically enabled us to have an open discussion with Nokia and made it possible to continue MeeGo.
TechRepublic: Now onto the product. First and foremost, Jolla recently announced Sailfish, the mobile OS based on MeeGo. Why did you choose the name Sailfish?
Jussi: We went through many options when deciding on the codename that we wanted to reveal to the public. Sailfish is the world’s fastest fish, and Jolla has developed an unintentional association to the maritime theme. Therefore, Sailfish seemed very appropriate. There are already some nice logos out there created by our fans.
TechRepublic: Why not use a modified version of Android instead?
Jussi: We wanted to lead the technology and UI. Google is leading Android, and others are following. Also, we feel that with the acquisition of Motorola and recent AFA (anti-fragmentation agreement) related news, we didn’t have an option to modify Android.
TechRepublic: Since MeeGo / Mer (and in turn Sailfish) are Linux-based OSes, is there going to be any form of Android application compatibility? Will it be just as good as running a native Android OS?
Jussi: We understand that in order to have a serious smartphone, we need to have an application market to support the device. We have so far been talking about HTML5 and Qt applications, and we will reveal the rest of the application story on November 22, 2012. But cross-platform compatibility is definitely one of the main drivers in Sailfish.
TechRepublic: In regards to the hardware, can you comment on anything related to the form factor of your upcoming smartphone? I’m sure my readers would be interested in hints.
Jussi: We can say that the display will definitely be more than 3.5″. I know that’s not much, but we will reveal the device later on this year.
TechRepublic: At one point, you mentioned that China is the place for innovation for future smartphone designs. What happened to Europe or the United States in that department? Did they fall by the wayside?
Jussi: It looks like they have selected their path, and we wanted something new. And there’s a massive push in China to do something different and differently, so we want to enable this change in China and be a part of it.
TechRepublic: Due to the recent carrier agreement between D.Phone and Jolla in China, are we going to see China as the primary market for the new Jolla device or will this be a worldwide phenomenon?
Jussi: This will be worldwide, as Jolla is a global company. Jolla’s roots are in Finland, so it would be very strange if we didn’t have a strong presence in Europe and Scandinavia. The United States is also the most followed market in the world, so I believe we can provide something interesting and valuable for U.S. customers as well. However, since we are a small company, we need to launch our product in phases.
TechRepublic: What sort of sales figures are Jolla hoping to attain from their devices? Is the intention to be a niche device to serve a small segment of the population (i.e. nerds), or will the appeal be more profound and encompass the general public?
Jussi: It’s not possible to be a successful smartphone company while staying in the niche segment. In the first 1-2 years, we are aiming to have our volumes in the millions, and on top of that, we want to add the other Sailfish-based OEM’s products to grow the ecosystem quickly enough to be a viable alternative. The Sailfish Alliance will be an integral part of growing the volumes quickly.
TechRepublic: Is Jolla hiring? Are offices in places like the United States or China planned?
Jussi: Jolla is hiring aggressively at the moment. We are located in Hong Kong and Finland currently, and we have some individual contributors around the globe. The next offices that we open will be in China mainland.
TechRepublic: Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Jussi. Best luck to you and Jolla.
Jussi: Thanks for your interest!