Jolla rows away from burning Nokia

New startup to launch MeeGo-based phones

A new Finnish startup is going to try what to date no other company has been able to accomplish: launch devices based on the Linux-based MeeGo operating system.

Jolla Ltd. is comprised of directors and engineers from Nokia's N9 smartphone team, which might have been the last smartphone to use pure MeeGo.

Now it seems my earlier declaration of MeeGo's passing was premature. If statements made by CEO Jussi Hurmola are any indication, there will be a Jolla smartphone with MeeGo running out later this year.

The timing of this announcement is interesting, given last week's admission by Nokia Director Risto Sillasmaa that ]Nokia has a backup plan in place]( in case their Windows Phone 8 plan failed. Quite a few people speculated that MeeGo might be lifeboat on which Nokia's business would be able to escape the "burning platform". Indeed, that Jolla is Finnish for 'dinghy" could also serve as a clue.

You could argue either way that Jolla may or may not cut a MeeGo-based avenue of escape off for Nokia. While it seems certain that Jolla's team of ex-Nokia staffers want to make a go of their own with a line of smartphones, there is nothing to stop Nokia from keeping an eye on Jolla's success and shift back to the MeeGo source code if things go sour with Windows Phone 8.

Well, there's perhaps two things: the permissive licenses for MeeGo itself, and the fact that Jolla isn't using the original MeeGo code branch, they've forked off the Mer Project code.

If Jolla makes some significant improvements to some area of its version fo MeeGo, then it is possible that the permissive licensing of Nokia MeeGo and Mer-based MeeGo will allow Jolla to keep innovations close.

It's too early to tell if that's the way Jolla will play the game. Even with permissive licensing, they can still be a very open community. And well Jolla might: the more manufacturers within a fledgling MeeGo community the better, and if Nokia were to repent its Windows decision and move back to MeeGo or Tizen or Mer, it should be very welcome.

MeeGo has been well-received as an interface, and the fact that the Mer fork of MeeGo will be based on HTML5 as well as Qt and QML means that there will be a healthy ecosystem of at least web-based apps to fill its library. So Jolla could pull this off.

If Jolla were to succeed, one thing is clear: it would brand Nokia's executive team as perhaps one of the most inept decision makers in recent history. Nokia's decision to abandon MeeGo and jump to Windows Phone would forever be pilloried as either a panicked decision or a too-cozy relationship between Nokia and Microsoft.

It will be interesting to see if small and nimble Jolla can win where the big and mighty Nokia could not.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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