Ex-Nokia Engineers Unveil Jolla Smartphone Running Sailfish OS
Canonical tried to crowd-fund its own Ubuntu-based smartphone, the Edge, earlier this year, with something of a pyrrhic victory: it managed to earn almost $13 million in pledges, while not getting a cent of that money for failing to meet its $32 million goal. But Canonical’s failure doesn’t seem to be slowing down the efforts of Jolla Oy. The Finnish start-up comprised of former Nokia engineers is selling the Jolla, a new smartphone running on Sailfish OS, a Linux-based mobile operating system partially built on Nokia’s pre-Windows OS of choice, MeeGo.
A post on Bloomberg from yesterday reports that Jolla has sold out of its first slate of handsets in Europe, and will roll out in the EU and China in 2014.
In terms of hardware, the phone sounds like it’ll keep up pretty well with the rest of the smartphone pack out there. It features a 4.5-inch display, an 8 megapixel camera (with a 2 megapixel front-facing camera, for selfies, I assume), 16GB of internal storage and 1GB of RAM along with a MicroSD slot. Overall, it sounds like, well, a smartphone. The real draw, it seems, is the Sailfish OS, which looks slick and will work with just a few different kinds of swipes and gestures. Co-founder Marc Dillon is quoted as saying “We’ve made it very easy to move back and forth without having buttons. There are really only two simple gestures: pushing from the edge of the screen and pushing from the center of the screen.”
Take a look at this promotional video showing off the Sailfish OS to see what he means:
And in order to bring people on board and compensate for the obvious lack of apps available for a new mobile OS, Jolla will apparently be compatible with Android’s slate of applications via emulation. If that bit of software jiu jitsu actually works, that would give the Jolla a huge edge in terms of winning over new hearts and minds.
Moreover, the company isn’t interested in simply making phones that run a proprietary OS, like Apple and iOS. No, the Bloomberg post offers a comment from Jolla Oy cofounder Antti Saarnio who says that “Sailfish is a platform other players can drop their services on.” In short, Jolla Oy hopes to promote a new alternative to Android.
Whether or not the phone or the operating system will ever make their way to the United States isn’t quite clear. And that isn’t the only question: can Jolla and its Sailfish OS actually rival Android and iOS? When a Goliath like Microsoft stumbles so hard, it might mean that only a small and nimble David could stand a chance at taking away Google and Apple’s mobile customers. But considering how similar Sailfish appears compared to the two most dominant mobile operating systems, I have my doubts about its chances to stand out. Let’s hope Jolla is able to prove me wrong.