Jolla, the Finnish start-up championing the MeeGo platform abandoned by Nokia, has unveiled the user interface for its Sailfish operating system.
Jolla gave the first look at the UI for Sailfish, which is based on MeeGo descendant Mer, at the Slush developer conference in Helsinki, Finland on Wednesday – a significant step in its plan to take on what it sees as the app duopoly of Apple and Google.
Jolla also used Slush to take the wraps off the SDK to Sailfish that it will be offering to device makers. The SDK, which is available for download from Wednesday, consists of Mer Core's tools, Qt Creator, Jolla UI components, Sailfish UI framework and Sailfish handset application interfaces.
The Finnish firm, which is made up mainly of ex-Nokia staffers, talked up the UI's multitasking abilities, highlighting that users don't need to enter an application to interact with it - pausing a song directly from the homescreen, for example.
The company also announced that ST‐Ericsson will support the Sailfish OS in its NovaThor platforms, and that it expects to announce further chipset manufacturer partners in the near future.
While Sailfish can be used for other types of devices, including tablets, smart TVs and in-car kit, it's chiefly a mobile play.
Jolla's primary goal however remains to launch its own Jolla- branded smartphone, which is likely to happen in the first half of 2013 - slightly later than the 'soft' deadline former Jolla chief Jussi Hurmola had in mind.
The first Sailfish devices are expected to launch next year, with Finnish carrier DNA announcing that it will "sell and market Jolla smartphones in Finland as soon as they enter the market". The company also has an agreement with Chinese retailer D.Phone to stock Jolla devices.
Jolla is also planning to provide ready-made Jolla hardware to mobile network operators. "We're doing Sailfish by Jolla smartphones that someone like Orange, Vodafone or Hutchison would then be able to deeply integrate their services into. They would be able to quickly create devices that have Sailfish that also have their brand on the outside," Jolla's recently appointed CEO, Marc Dillon, told ZDNet.
Jolla vs the app stores
Although it's still unclear exactly how Jolla intends to challenge the app store business model, a key to its plan remains enabling companies that have been locked out of app store earnings to push their own services through the Jolla devices.
"The appeal to businesses is the ability to put their services in and have those services supported very well by the operating system. The other thing about business is the ability to have different business models. So app stores, app stores, app stores are the primary business model. We're able to enable many different kinds now," said Dillon.
"In the past, early device manufacturers made the devices and the operators sold them. Then the operators started pushing their own services. With the main ecosystem companies - the duopoly as some call it - there's very little opportunity for an operator to create a deeply integrated service in those operating systems. With Apple it's almost impossible, with the next Android the release goes out and then they have to reintegrate it and change it and make sure it works in that form, every new version that comes out.
Companies that want to bring their own technologies to the device can also do that without sharing those unique components with other vendors that use Sailfish, according to Dillon.
"With an open operating system and ecosystem, different technologies can be introduced. There's no politics, no strategy... We can make a bunch of different variants from it that might have different technologies, a different look and feel and stuff like that. That is what Sailfish is offering."