Jolla's MeeGo UI is ready to go - and it's on the hunt for mobile talent

Finnish smartphone startup Jolla is scouting out new talent in Finland and China, where Jolla's CEO Jussi Hurmola reckons its MeeGo OS can tap into the nation's hunger to make a mark on mobile innovation.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Jolla, the Finnish startup carrying the MeeGo torch, is busy recruiting new staff this week ahead of CEO Jussi Hurmola's world tour to collect the fragments needed to quickly build up an ecosystem for the mobile OS.

Jolla, which currently employs 50 mostly Nokia castaways, was interviewing 38 potential new hires for Jolla in Finland on Wednesday. Those who make the cut will form part of its target of having 100 Finnish staff by the end of 2012, the soft deadline for the launch of its smartphone based on a MeeGo OS fork.

"We're having a recruiting day today and we're hiring lots of engineers from Finland and we're also looking... to hire people from China, so we are opening our Chinese office soon," Hurmola told Norse Code.

One source Jolla is looking to for talent are contributors to the Linux-based Mer Project, the core operating system of the MeeGo fork Jolla has chosen to build upon.

"People can go there and contribute, and we pick up the people who contribute the most to the Jolla product already."

The user interface (UI) for its Jolla device is ready to roll, according to Hurmola: "Our UI is ready now, we haven't released it yet, we will save it for the product launch and the platform is getting up now so the project looks pretty nice."

However, he wouldn't be drawn on details, saying only that the UI for Jolla's own hardware will be completely different from anything available on Android devices, iOS, Nokia's own ill-fated N9 MeeGo device, or indeed non-Jolla co-branded MeeGo devices that may surface in the future.

Nokia's first and only MeeGo phone, the N9 Image credit: Nokia

The Jolla UI "will be a change from anything existing at the moment," Hurmola added. "At the time when iOS and Android came, they made a difference and they have been updating and developing their UIs a bit, but we can take a major step forward."

Global launch

The company will kickstart its foundations for a global launch by reviving assets that were developed by MeeGo ecosystem players when Nokia and Intel headed up the project - including components developed by media houses, operators and application developers scattered across the US, Europe, South America and China.

"They have their MeeGo stuff and now we are basically going around the globe and collecting all this stuff back together," said Hurmola, who sets sail next Monday to corral them, beginning in the UK, followed by Germany, San Francisco and then Beijing, where Jolla will spend up to two weeks talking with operators and retailers across China.

Reusing assets to build the new ecosystem is an approach Jolla is using to attract the support of operators, retailers and online partners, who will help it meet the enormous task of attempting to launch with an app store already in place.

"MeeGo is independent, so what we do with the app store and cloud services is we invite people into contribute their own business models and technologies into MeeGo. We work together with operators and they can integrate what they have already into the MeeGo ecosystem platform, and we are also supporting them by configuring MeeGo to fit their existing models and technologies," explained Hurmola.

"In addition to that, we want to provide a Jolla MeeGo experience, so we want to make sure there are the facilities that get access to all applications and access to Jolla. We are looking at a cloud backend and also clients on the Jolla device to be able to do this."

Hurmola is sticking to Jolla's 2012 deadline for a launch, but won't commit to a firm date. When the release does occur, the Jolla.com site will also go live, opening up a forum to discuss with customers, developers and partners.

Looking to China

While Jolla also intends to sell its devices directly to consumers, it also last month it signed a deal with large Chinese retailer D.Phone to sell its devices - a company Hurmola he describes as "major, major customer for us".

China represents much more to Jolla than customers and manufacturing, though. Hurmola believes the next wave of innovation will come from the country, and hopes Jolla can ride what he sees is a hunger within China to make a mark on smartphone innovation, not just production.

"I feel that there's a pressure in Chinese industry itself to create something inside China, and we believe that MeeGo can deliver those things," he said.

"I think China will be the next source of change. The previous changes came from the US and before that they came from Europe, but I think that the next change that will come to this market and industry will come from China. That's why we want to be there and we want to be part of this change."

Of course, Chinese consumers, retailers and operators are likely to play an important role in Jolla's survival too since it "needs to be a serious player in the market" and capture "several percent" of the world market within two years -- a figure that could mean rivaling the smartphone shares held by Microsoft's Windows Phone (5.1 percent) or Samsung's Bada (3.3 percent) in the last quarter, which equates to shipments of five and three million devices.

"This is needed in order to keep the interest in the public and secure the ecosystem growth and also be able to support the component and manufacturing we need.

"We will launch the device and we will sell as many as we can, and that will set the track record for us. I believe we can grow very quickly but I cannot give you the exact percentage at the moment," he said.

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