A startup called Jolla, founded by ex-Nokia engineers, is aiming to build smartphones based on the well-received open source operating system
A startup formed by ex-Nokia engineers is looking to muscle its way into an already highly competitive and crowded smartphone market with new devices based on the MeeGo operating system that Nokia shoved aside last year in favour of Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS.
The former Nokia employees and other MeeGo supports have been working behind the scenes for the past year to create Jolla, the startup that company officials said will not only make smartphones based on MeeGo that will hit the market by the end of the year, but also will build up the all-important ecosystem of applications and services around them.
Jolla officials are hoping to gain traction in a market that not only includes Apple and its iPhones as well as the rash of smartphone makers that have signed onto Google’s Android OS, but also a struggling Research In Motion and its BlackBerry devices as well as Nokia and its smartphones based on the Microsoft operating system.
Nokia and chip maker Intel began developing MeeGo in 2010 as a Linux-based open-source alternative to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, and as a replacement for Nokia’s own fading Symbian operating system. However, early last year, Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop announced that the company was abandoning MeeGo – apparently unhappy with the relatively slow development of the OS – in favour of Windows Phone.
But that didn’t stop Nokia from releasing one MeeGo-based smartphone – the N9 – which saw some strong reviews when it was released last summer. Jolla officials are hoping to revive MeeGo – which Intel brought to the Linux Foundation and LiMo Foundation and rebranded as Tizen – as a viable alternative to iOS and Android.
“Nokia created something wonderful – the world’s best smartphone product,” Jolla officials said in a statement. “It deserves to be continued, and we will do that together with all the bright and gifted people contributing to the MeeGo success story.”
Jolla has been working on the new smartphone and MeeGo since the end of 2011, according to officials, and will incorporate aspects of the Mer Core operating system and Qt framework, as well as the startup’s own user interface.
Jolla chief executive Jussi Hurmola, who spent 12 years with Nokia, told the Wall Street Journal on 9 July that despite the strong market position of Apple’s and Google’s operating systems, there is room for other platforms.
“With all the respect to [Apple’s mobile operating system] and Android, I’m quite sure that the market is ready for something new,” Hurmola told the Journal. “As I see it, there are user segments that have been left unserved. … There is this view that certain players dominate the market, but it’s not really true. If we manage to hit the right notes, I’m sure the market will change with us. We are not aiming to become a niche player.”
In their statement, Jolla officials said the company boasts “a substantial number of MeeGo’s core engineers and directors” among its employees, and is continuing to recruit more people with MeeGo expertise. Hurmola said about half of the company’s 50 or so employees are from Nokia, and that the company is talking with potential hardware partners. He said the company, based in Finland, will need to raise about $12 million (£7.7m) and to sell 50,000 to 100,000 of the new smartphones to break even.
As Jolla employees look to get their company off the ground, Nokia’s struggles are continuing. The company, which lost $2 billion in the first quarter, in June announced it was cutting 10,000 jobs – about 19 percent of its workforce – by the end of 2013 as it looks to better compete with Apple and Google’s phone partners.
Other plans call for shuttering three manufacturing facilities and focusing on the company’s Lumia line of Windows-based phones, which have received good review. According to Canaccord Genuity analysts in a 5 June research note, the Lumia 900 was the second best selling phone at AT&T during April and May, behind Apple’s iPhone 4S. However, during those months, Nokia was the fifth best selling smartphone maker, behind Apple, Samsung, Motorola Mobility and HTC.
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