Jolla thinks it could sell 'millions' of phones running Sailfish OS

Finnish startup Jolla this week started shipping its first smartphone, called the Jolla, running its open-source Sailfish operating system, and the company has grand ambitions for where it can take its niche product.

jolla sailfish meego

The Jolla phone

The Jolla phone costs €399 ($540) on an unsubsidized basis, and that price includes taxes in the European Union. The company said it received pre-orders from people in 136 countries and plans to start selling devices in the rest of Europe and China in 2014.

"This is a product where our company can introduce our idealistic views on how we believe the mobile phone should be," Antti Saarnio, Jolla's chairman and co-founder, told Bloomberg. "On the business side, we're dead serious. With our own phone and our partners' phones combined, we're expecting to sell millions of phones."

The Jolla smartphone sports a 4.5-inch display, a dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel camera, LTE (in certain markets), removable colored casings, 16 GB of memory and a microSD slot.

Sailfish, first announced in late 2011, is based on the open-source, Linux-based MeeGo platform, which combined Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) former Maemo platform with Intel's erstwhile Moblin efforts. Jolla has raised $258 million from a variety of telecommunications industry players to launch Sailfish, and it will distribute the OS to device manufacturers free of charge, generating revenue by licensing proprietary software features and from intellectual property rights.

Jolla has struck a deal to use Nokia's Here location services for map data in Sailfish OS and has also unveiled plans to include Yandex's Android app store, which has around 85,000 apps. Jolla indicated in September its first phones will not ship with support for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play storefront for apps.

Early reviews indicate the platform may need to be tweaked. According to The Verge, swiping in from the sides brings users to the home screen, while swiping up from the bottom brings up notifications and social feeds, and a swipe down from the top either closes an active app or locks the phone if a user is already on the home screen. The Verge said "in practice it's highly unintuitive and unwieldy to the point where the entire UI paradigm can be considered broken." Meanwhile, Engadget wrote that "perhaps mixing in some more traditional UI elements will make us appreciate the gesture system more, too."

In a take on the modular hardware movement that Phonebloks and Google's Motorola Mobile are undertaking with their "Project Ara," Jolla is pushing what it calls the "other half." Jolla said this "other half" will support connectors built into the back of the phone for power and a bus connection to support things like a physical Qwerty keyboard, for instance.

"Putting something like a keyboard is expected," Jolla co-founder Marc Dillon told TechCrunch. "We are working on the developers kit so that anybody can do this… We're working on accessories, and we expect third parties to work on accessories."

Jolla has not started work on its second device, but the company already has concepts in mind. "If this goes well, we have plenty of ideas--the problem is we have too many maybe," CTO Stefano Mosconi told ZDNet. "We just have to choose which one is the coolest one. There are things that the world hasn't seen yet."

For more:
- see this ZDNet article 
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this The Verge article
- see this TechCrunch article

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