MeeGo could gain a second life thanks to a group of ex-Nokia (NYSE:NOK) employees who formed a startup--Jolla--that plans to release a MeeGo-based smartphone later this year.
Details on the effort are somewhat scarce--indeed, Jolla does not yet appear to have a website for the company. However, according to a press release, Jolla's LinkedIn company profile and the @JollaMobile Twitter feed, a group of former Nokia employees and MeeGo enthusiasts formed Jolla in 2011 with the plan to release new phones using the MeeGo platform.
"Nokia created something wonderful--the world's best smartphone product," said Jussi Hurmola, Jolla's CEO. "It deserves to be continued, and we will do that together with all the bright and gifted people contributing to the MeeGo success story."
According to its LinkedIn profile, Jolla counts between 50 and 200 employees. Among those is Marc Dillon, who served as the head of Nokia's MeeGo effort.
"Jolla Ltd. will design, develop and sell new MeeGo based smartphones," the company noted in its press release. "Together with international private investors and partners, a new smartphone using this MeeGo based OS will be revealed later this year. Jolla Ltd. has been developing a new smartphone product and the OS since the end of 2011. The OS has evolved from MeeGo OS using Mer Core and Qt with Jolla technology including its own brand new UI."
Jolla is Finnish for "a special type of sail boat," which ZDNet's Matthew Miller noted could be a reference to Nokia CEO Stephen Elop's famous "burning platform" memo. In the memo, Elop wrote that Nokia, which at the time planned to use MeeGo as its primary smartphone platform, was standing on a "burning platform" and needed to make a major strategic shift to stay afloat.
MeeGo is the Linux-based software platform formed by the combination of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo efforts in early 2010. Nokia had planned to shift from Symbian to MeeGo for its high-end smartphone efforts. However, when Nokia's board hired Elop, a former Microsoft executive, in late 2010, Elop promptly changed Nokia's course by dropping MeeGo in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. The move reportedly angered a large chunk of Nokia's employee base who worked on Symbian and MeeGo.
Nokia did end up releasing one MeeGo product, the N9, which received largely glowing reviews. However, before the N9 went on sale, Elop said that even if the N9 was successful, it would be Nokia's last MeeGo product.
Despite the obvious enthusiasm among Jolla's employees, the company faces a wide range of challenges. The history of the mobile phone market is filled with failed or struggling startups including Neonode, Sierra Wireless and Sendo. Such companies suffered from a wide range of problems, including the cost of patent licenses, difficulty in obtaining support from wireless carriers, and consumer apathy toward nascent application ecosystems.
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