Sailfish OS gains steam as Cyanogen reportedly founders

Image: Jolla

Jolla’s Sailfish OS is gaining traction in Russia and some other emerging markets, the developer said this morning. But a rival mobile operating system doesn’t appear to be faring as well.

Sailfish has been accepted as the only mobile platform in Russia “to be used in governmental and government-controlled corporations’ upcoming mobile device projects,” Jolla announced. The Finnish developer said it also is in discussions in China and South Africa regarding building local ecosystems for the OS in those markets.

Sailfish OS is a Linux-based platform that grew out of the MeeGo OS that Nokia abandoned a few years ago when it threw its weight behind Microsoft's Windows Phone. Jolla, which was founded by former Nokia employees, earlier this year introduced a new handset and "community device program" to spur developer support for Sailfish. 

Jolla made inroads to India in July when Sailfish launched on phones there under the developer’s first licensing agreement. The company pivoted to the licensing business model earlier in the year as it closed on a $12 million funding round.

“Sailfish OS development in Russia is an important part of Jolla’s wider agenda, aiming to power various countries' mobile ecosystems,” Jolla CEO Sami Pienimaki said in a press release (PDF). “Our solution is based on open source code and contribution models with partners, which makes it possible to ramp up local systems effectively in 6 months. We have now done this in Russia with a local partner and using this experience we are looking forward to ramping up similar projects in other countries.”

Meanwhile, Android Police reported that Cyanogen “is effectively ceasing to exist as it has for much of its short lifetime” as it continues to shed staff. The developer is undergoing a renewed round of layoffs and will close its Seattle headquarters in the next few weeks, consolidating staff to its smaller office in Palo Alto, California, Android Police said, citing sources “both in and outside the company.”

The news outlet also reported that the future of Cyanogen co-founder Steve Kondik “is up in the air.”

Cyanogen launched in 2013 with a version of Android stripped of Google’s proprietary offerings and with improved security, customization and performance. The developer was named to FierceWireless’s "Fierce 15 2015," and AT&T was reportedly considering selling Cyanogen-powered smartphones earlier this year, but the company has since scaled back dramatically after failing to gain significant traction.

Players such as Microsoft, BlackBerry and Ubuntu have struggled mightily in the era of the mass-market smartphone, and even in emerging markets there's scant evidence of demand for a third operating system to challenge Google's Android and Apple's iOS. Whether Jolla or any other developer can buck that trend and build a significant audience has yet to be determined.