Is there room in the market for another smartphone platform? Finnish company Jolla thinks so, announcing that it is readying release of a MeeGo-based operating system called Sailfish.
The company was started in 2011 by ex-Nokia employees who intended to continue work on the MeeGo OS, which had been abandoned when Nokia decided to adopt Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Nokia has released one MeeGo-based phone, the N9.
Tile Icons, Android Apps
On Wednesday, Jolla showed a user interface for Sailfish at the Slush start-up conference in Helsinki, and posted a video on YouTube. The UI employs large icons, not unlike the live-data tiles, a style formerly called Metro, used in Windows Phone 8. The new OS, according to Jolla, features multitasking and allows users to control a file or function without entering the app, such as ending a call or pausing a song.
More important, Sailfish will be able to run Android-based applications, which could solve the chicken-and-egg problem of having access to a large library of apps from Day 1.
Jolla demonstrated the OS running on the N9, and said that Sailfish-based products are expected in 2013, including a Jolla-branded smartphone in the first half of the year. ST-Ericsson will make the chipset, and Jolla announced a deal with Finland carrier DNA to carry the forthcoming Sailfish products.
Jolla also showed a preview of the Sailfish Software Development Kit (SDK), which is based on Qt Creator, a cross-platform development environment also from Nokia. The SDK, now available for download, is designed for use on Mac, Windows and Linux computers.
In a crowded market, part of Jolla's strategy is to provide its smartphones and OS to carriers, which can "deeply integrate their services" into the devices, as CEO Marc Dillon told news media.
While Android does that as well, one possible incentive for the carriers is that they could get more revenue from their services using Sailfish devices than from Android devices, whose users usually acquire third-party Android apps. In addition, Jolla could customize Sailfish into different OS's that are more carrier-branded and -specific than Android is.
Current Analysis' Avi Greengart said he didn't think there was room for another, broadly based mobile OS, although he acknowledged the possibility that one could potentially find a niche.
He noted that, even though Sailfish can run Android apps, the idea of having a branded, highly customized OS is already being done with Android itself by Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
"The challenges to establishing a smartphone platform and ecosystem these days are enormous," Greengart said, "as Microsoft and RIM know full well."
MeeGo is a Linux-based, open source software platform, intended for use not only on smartphones, but also netbooks, cars, smart TVs, and tablets. It was announced in 2010 by Nokia and Intel at a joint press conference, as a merger of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo projects.