Featured Articles: Jolla’s Sailfish OS
After a bit of monitoring this project, I wanted to talk about Jolla’s Sailfish OS, and where I think it may fit in with the current smart phone line up, and how it competes. After seeing the Edge campaign fail, which we all saw coming, and the split opinion on Canonical’s motives as a company, Sailfish OS may just be up your alley. The question, is whether or not the average consumer cares vs. the computer community.
Who is Jolla?
Jolla, pronounced “yawl-a’, is a Finnish company which designs, develops, and sells smartphones. The company consists of many ex-Nokia employees, who had a grander vision for the Mobile market, the result of the “failed” MeeGo project. You may remember MeeGo’s “legacy” in the form of the Nokia N9. MeeGo originally was a merge of Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin mobile Linux systems.
Come sail away with me (cue music!)
Sailfish, based on the GNU/Linux OS, is an interesting mix of modern technology. Using the RPM package manager and the monolithic Linux kernel, the Operating System aims to be a platform, that is built on a community. Interestingly enough, the display protocol used is the hot Wayland display protocol (which to its credit has been around for quite a while). Complete with an SDK, the project wishes to remain as open as possible, mentioning avoiding security issues around the hot topic of today, The NSA and PRISM.
The software architecture is what appeals most to me, with as few adaptation pieces put into the Linux kernel as possible. This minimalistic approach to putting a layer on top of the Linux kernel, will hopefully avoid fragmentation issues, but as we have seen with Android, that is something that has long been a visual byproduct. The core development uses a number of interesting bits including Wayland, HTML5, QML, Qt, Qt mobility, and the Qt Webkit). The SDK is open source, containing the entire Sailfish OS in its entirety, and works on several platforms, including Android, Linux, iOS, and Windows.
Jolla has told us that any mobile manufacturer can license the Sailfish OS, but the details of that license are still unclear, and yet to be seen. There was an initial funding campaign via pre-orders, but numbers are unknown, as Jolla will not disclose the true count due to “customer confidentiality.” In any case, it will interesting to see if this project has any traction after the initial phone orders hit the market, with the dominant Android OS entrenched deeply in the Mobile market, and the just as prominent iPhone. Hopefully the platform’s core architecture and philosophy attract developers, where a simple UI was not enough for the Windows Phone.
The hardware (current phone):
The phone itself isn’t too shabby, but not anything special. Often early projects such as this can’t throw loads of cash into high-end specs, so this is to be expected. Still, the specs are not terrible, and the phone hardware appears to be decent and run at a good speed for the OS. Jolla even announced the OS is portable enough to be run on other devices such as TVs, cameras, and other devices, similar to Android.
Whether or not this hardware will impact the presentation and adoption of later users, is yet to be seen. Too often mobile users thirst for specs, bludgeoned into their heads by carriers such as Verizon and AT&T, who have nothing else to market us but numbers. Jolla has thrown around the term “The Other Half” as a differentiation in hardware design, evident in the “2 slices” visual appearance of the phone. Jolla has said that this allows the phone back to be customized, whatever that entails.
I have watched the MeeGo project, the Moblin project, all sort of end up loosing interest and traction, despite these kind of project “forks.” I really have to wonder if this particular “indie” phone will make it. I really have high hopes for it, but competition from the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox OS, and the interesting Ubuntu Touch (despite the failed Edge IndieGoGo campaign). I particularly have been most interested in Firefox OS, as Canonicals philosophy, even with the Edge, left my suspicious as always. Jolla’s Sailfish OS and phone, interest me greatly, and I will be excited if it does take off. Don’t hold your breath though.
So where does this phone fit in, where does it compete? To me, I can understand it as a Linux user, but the general public likely will not care, as they haven’t for Firefox OS or Ubuntu Touch. You’ll be hard pressed to find an everyday user that has heard of any of these projects. It would be nice to see a phone OS such as this at least displace the ugly Windows Phone’s spot in the mobile lineup. I’ll tell ya what though, the company really knows how to present their products, evident in the videos they have shared, as well as third-party sites. The focus on developers who truly desire an open platform, instead of being tied down, is a good start. Let’s just see if this enthusiasm translates and trickles on down to the consumer.