November 21, 2012, 8:20 AM — Breaking into the smartphone market with a new platform may seem to be a tall order, but Finnish company Jolla think it can be done and has demonstrated the user interface of its upcoming operating system Sailfish.
Jolla, which means dinghy in Finnish, was founded last year by a group of former Nokia employees who wanted to continue the development work the Finnish phone maker had done on the MeeGo operating system. The company's newly appointed CEO Marc Dillon worked at Nokia for almost 11 years.
MeeGo was dumped by Nokia after the company and its then-new CEO Stephen Elop decided to go with Windows Phone in February 2011. Nevertheless, the company released a Meego phone it already had in development, the N9, later that year.
Jolla demonstrated Sailfish's user interface on Wednesday at the Slush start-up conference in Helsinki and in a video posted on Youtube. The latter shows large icons that users can interact with directly on the home screen, similar to the live tiles concept on Windows Phone 8.
Users will be able to end a call or pause a song without having to enter the respective application, according to Jolla.
Jolla hasn't announced any smartphones yet, but the first products are expected to arrive next year. The company has also demonstrated Sailfish running on the N9. The OS can also be adapted to run on tablets, TVs and automotive systems, according to Jolla.
On Wednesday, Jolla also introduced a preview of the Sailfish SDK. It is based Qt Creator -- a cross-platform integrated development environment that Nokia also decided to get rid of -- and will be available on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X soon.
To expand the number of applications, Sailfish-based smartphones will also be able to run apps developed for Android.
Jolla also announced a chipset deal with ST-Ericsson and a carrier deal with Finnish operator DNA to offer its upcoming products.
Competition in the smartphone segment is tough and breaking the dominance of Android and iOS won't be easy, as Microsoft and Nokia are discovering.
However, Jolla is a small company with a fairly small cost base, so the volumes don't have to be enormous for it to become a sustainable business, according to Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight.
"There is the enthusiast opportunity; people who were committed to MeeGo. There is always going to be that volume. But the big question is how Jolla can move beyond that," said Blaber.
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