Jolla, that small player that wanted to play in the big league

As annouced previously by @nsuffys (well, not a serious anayst, but more a friend), the smartphone OS wars has begun (again).

During the last years we have seen some quite interesting players, that are Palm-HP or Nokia+Intel that tried to bring interesting OS, webOS or MeeGo, but we mainly seen two big players, that are Apple and Google, literally crusing any other players with iOS and Android. A third player, Microsoft is also trying to grab some marketshare with the next iteration of Windows Phone (WP8).

Now, at the end of 2012, the smartphone OS wars has reignited, and more players wants to try. RIM for instance, is bringing a very innovative OS (BB10), and Mozilla wants to make their Firefox a full mobile OS (Firefox OS). Intel has restarted its project, now with Samsung, and they created Tizen, while Canonical is also trying, by creating Unity, and trying to port it in a phone.

But the most interesting player is Jolla. Just for a reminder, Jolla is a small startup created by some ex-Nokians that have left, or were fired from Nokia after the strategic shift from Linux “Mobile computers” like the N900, N9 (Maemo and then MeeGo devices), to Microsoft’s Windows Phone. Jolla is pretty mysterious, and the CIO, Jussi Hurmola, is giving very little information about what the OS will be able to do.

Just a quick recap of what we are pretty sure now about the OS (for those who don’t know)

  • Open source base (based on Mer project)
  • Uses Qt for UI (Qt is a very powerful toolkit used by many industrials as well as in some big open source projects like VLC)

The rest is pretty blurry, and I’m not here to tell about rumors …

What is interesting is that today, Jolla have a done a pretty impressive press release:

PRESS RELEASE – Jolla Ltd. establishes a mobile ecosystem alliance based on MeeGo OS

Jolla Ltd., a new smartphone technology company, is setting up a new ecosystem by forming an alliance in Hong Kong together with the leading players in the industry. The new fully productised mobile operating system, based on MeeGo and codenamed “Sailfish”, will be ready for licensing by other device manufacturers, design houses and service companies in spring 2013. Sailfish builds on and contributes to existing open source projects such as the Qt Project and Mer Core, and due to those roots the new OS will be open to community involvement and participation.

The alliance partners will be investing an estimated 200 million euros to ensure the success and rapid expansion of the new ecosystem. The 200M€ ecosystem financing will come in gradually from Jolla and as members join the alliance, which will include chipset vendors, OEM and ODM manufacturers, operators and retailers.

Jussi Hurmola, CEO Jolla Ltd.: “China is a game changer in the technology industry. The next big mobile change will come from China and Jolla wants to be enabling it. There are massive resources and competence to transport the whole industry.”

The Sailfish alliance data centre will be hosted in Cyberport Hong Kong, one of the best connected sites in the world, with Internet backbones going to China, Europe and the US. The data centre is being established to host Sailfish’s infrastructure, data, productisation facilities and collaboration services. In addition, some of the upcoming ecosystem’s cloud services will be provided from there. The OS and UX are highly scalable and will support smartphones, tablets, televisions, automotive and other device classes.

Mark Clift, COO of Cyberport Hong Kong: “We’ve been following Jolla’s development closely and are now delighted to see Jolla select Cyberport as the primary location to host the new mobile OS.”

The MeeGo based community is extending in Asia and China. Jolla Ltd., headquartered in Helsinki, is establishing new R&D operations in Hong Kong and China mainland in order to lead the alliance development and ecosystem. Jolla strongly believes and understands that the community is the heart of the distribution, technology and ideas, and is committed to supporting community involvement and participation within Sailfish.

Jolla Ltd.

Source: JollaTides

Like Google, Jolla is trying to build a community of OEM around its OS. That’s a pretty big challenge for a company that only have 50 employees. And not only that, but Jolla has promised that we will be able to have a sneak peek of what will be this Sailfish platform in early 2013.

Jussi Hurmola said many times that they want Jolla to become a large player in the hyper-competitive domain that is mobile OS / phones, but I never thought that a company that have absolutely no money income (no phone sell) can afford to do that in less than a year, and today’s news just stunned me. More than selling 100 000 units, they want to develop their own platform that will be shared with other players. Moreover, they are trying to open their platform in China, that is a more-than-hyper-competitive marker, where Android and iOS are deeply rooted, and where local players can makes smartphones out of nothing, running a fairly advanced OS (Mixi customization of Android for example), and only costing 100$.

But indeed, Jolla have their chance, especially because I think that all these goals, although hard to achieve, are very wise. Unlike Nokia’s decisions to go uniletarly with an OS, discarding all other strategies (including markers), Jolla is doing well, prospecting in both R&D, developement, and also strategic, market decisions

Let’s start with the idea of opening a new platform. As the Android experience has shown, and even before, as the Symbian experience have shown. An “open platform” (Symbian was not really open, but only ~open to OEM), have the capability to attract OEM because of lower barriers to enter in the market. What the OS maker gets is a quicker ability to gain marketshare, and a brand recognition as well.

What we have seen in Android is that there are also drawbacks, like the lawsuits, fragmentation or lack of differenciation between products. Here Jolla wants to build an open platform (like MeeGo before) that can target everything. But the UI was not really mentionned in the press release, (seems to be “scalable”), that means that OEM will get all the capabilities to customize the UI, and solve the problem of differenciation.

A second, and most important component is China. China is a good experiment lab, because of its internal landscape that is very different from other countries. Although world class players like Samsung and Apple have a good part of marketshare in this country, a lot of people are buying phones from oppo, ZTE or huawei, brands that are quite unknown outside China. Users in china are also searching for a custom, and different experience of their device. Most of the android phones runs the custom ROM Mixi, and they also shown a great interest from Meego (and the N900 or the N9). If Jolla succed in bringing enough innovation, and the UX that chinese users are waiting for, they might get parts of a huge market. Definitely, the chinese market should not be ignored, and starting alliances in China is a good strategy from Jolla.

A third component of Jolla strategy is the community around Linux / Qt etc. Jolla is basing its work on the Mer project, a linux distribution, lightweight, made to run on embedded devices like phones or tablets and that includes components that are reliables. It also wants to use Qt, a nice graphical interface toolkit, that is quite performant, and can compete with some proprietary ones like flash. It also uses HTML5, an open standard, that can run inside Mer, using Qt as well. Betting on these technologies is safe because many of these components were already tested and are known to work. It then reduces the job of testing and maintaining the base, to the simple job of integration.

Jolla’s task of building than (open ?) platform is still huge, but is not impossible as it appeared at the first glance. but they have facilities to make it happen. And, considering that this platform might be the 3rd platform that both devs, OEM and users are waiting for, Jolla have the opportunity to became a real big player in the mobile industry.

Anyway, the 2nd OS wars seems to be exciting !

PS: Just like my friend, I’m not an analyst either, and what I say about China might be partially / completely false. Be sure to send me comments to correct my vision, I will thank you for that !

PPS: By the way, Jussi Hurmola just posted an exciting tweet


2 thoughts on “Jolla, that small player that wanted to play in the big league

  1. “RIM for instance, is bringing a very innovative OS (BB10)” INNOVATIVE? Dictionary definition: “to make changes by introducing something new”. Let’s be honest, if Nokia had never introduced the N9, most of BB10’s so called “innovations” would not exist.

    • I persist to say that BB10 is indeed innovative. Just because of the base they are using, that is QNX. We never seen a real time OS in mobile landscape.
      And what about that camera that is able to combine multiples photos (those with closed eyes for example) and correct them ?
      Maybe the keyboard, that suggests words also … These are innovations indeed, even if some parts of BB10 are cleary taken from N9.

      And the look is kinda fresh, even if I hate BB look.

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