It’s the perfect response to seeing your work axed and your colleagues laid off: go and do it yourself, but this time without the political shackles and corporate idiocy. We’ll soon see if Nokia was wrong to abandon its MeeGo OS. Guy Daniels reports.
If you were one of those who thought Nokia’s controversial CEO Stephen Elop was wrong to abandon work on the MeeGo operating system in favour of an alliance with Microsoft to support Windows Phone, then you’ll soon be able to judge for yourself whether or not it was one of the most costly mistakes ever made by the Finnish company. Or indeed, by any company in the mobile sector.
Just hours after Nokia released a new over-the-air update last Wednesday for owners of its much-loved (at least, outside Nokia’s boardroom) MeeGo-powered N9 smartphone, the development team up and quit. Some went to a new mobile development company, whilst others headed to a new OS and smartphone venture. Confusion remains as to Nokia’s promised years of support for the N9, as there appears to be no-one left to do the work…
MeeGo development lead Sotiris Makyrgiannis left to join the Finnish-based CloudBerry Tec start-up, which was established in February 2012 and whose prime focus area is described as mobility solutions. In a nice turn of phrase, the founders describe the company as:
“A ‘floating platform’ for those ex-Nokia employees that have been pushed into ‘cold water’ from the famous ‘burning platform’.”
Makrygiannis was apparently informed that his services would no longer be required last year, when Elop unveiled his major new strategic focus for Nokia. Commenting on Twiter, Makrygiannis said that the key people behind what was arguably Nokia’s last great phone – the short-lived N9 – were regrouping in order to “bring more love to the markets”.
He added that the MeeGo team wasn’t just focused on the OS, in fact they were the first group within Nokia to create and publish new Windows Phone applications – 25 of them in just four weeks. He also applauded is colleagues who, like him, stayed on at Nokia to deliver three software upgrades for N9 owners in the space of nine months (the final one last month).
Then over the weekend another group of ex-Nokia employees went live on Twitter with details of their new venture – Jolla Mobile. Jolla translates from Finnish into small yacht (surely not lifeboat… or floating platform..?), and is run by Jussi Hurmola – former MeeGo director at Nokia.
A press release described the company “an independent Finland based smartphone product company” that aims to build on the work started by Nokia on the open source MeeGo OS. CEO Hurmola says:
“Nokia created something wonderful – the world’s best smartphone product. It deserves to be continued, and we will do that together with all the bright and gifted people contributing to the MeeGo success story.”
Joining him are former Nokia directors and MeeGo professionals, including Sami Pienimäki, ex-head of MeeGo product Management, Stefano Mosconi, ex-IT Manager at MeeGo, Marc Dillon, ex-Principal Engineer at MeeGo.
Jolla intends to design, develop and sell new MeeGo-based smartphones, and will unveil its first model later this year. Hurmola says Jolla was actually set up in late 2011 and has been quietly working on developing a new smartphone and OS since then. The OS has evolved from MeeGo OS using Mer Core and Qt with Jolla technology, including a brand new UI.
Here’s what else we know, courtesy of tweets on the company’s twitter page.
Right now, the focus is on smartphones, not tablets. The OS runs on x86 and ARM. Although they have been working on the spec for a while now, there is still time to propose new ideas (hashtag ?#jollaspec). The team will “work eagerly” with any truly open systems, including Tizen. Compatibility with Tizen HTML5-based apps is a possibility, but it’s too early to know for sure yet. It doesn’t look like they’ll be supporting Harmattan, which remains a Nokia development OS.
They are funded by a group of international and domestic private investors, although they are not yet sharing details. Antti Saarnio is company chairman, and is also a partner with investment management company East Partners (so there’s a clue as to its financial backers).
However, they are also considering a Kickstarter crowd-funding approach. They believe in controlling the destiny of its OS, and not be beholden to Google. Apps will be developed with Nokia’s Qt SDK,? C++, native QML and HTML5. As for the degree of open source, the company says it will be somewhere between Android’s model and the fully open OpenMoko, “but more open definitely.”
Just to reiterate, whilst Jolla is run by ex-N9 developers, there is no intention to offer support for Nokia’s N9 smartphones: “The future of N9? remains in hands of Nokia. ?Jolla? is producing new phones with ?MeeGo?-based OS.”
As for any animosity towards Nokia, “why would there be? Nokia has given most of us jobs for a long time. Many of the same people who have been creating the N9 software now work for Jolla, living the dream forward.” When asked if non-compete clauses for ex-Nokia engineers are a problem, the company responded: “we have been hiring and continue to do that, in co-operation with Nokia.”
No surprise that the company is headquartered in Helsinki and has an R&D office in Tampere… Take that, Elop.
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