November is a busy month in the USA so you might miss the birth of a new ecosystem in the mobile landscape. One particular aspect of this new ecosystem is that it is incubating in the world's largest mobile marketplace – China. The next ecosystem will also be a fully open source OS. If you are a fan of truly open source mobile OS's you may have heard of Mer, QT or Nemo. If you're not an open source fan you might say "why care in a mobile landscape dominated by Apple and Google".
Why Care? Because disruptions happen in places we aren't looking… and if you want to be a leader in the field you have to look where others aren't looking. We understand the power of disruptions, one of the major disruptions in the mobile space was Apples introduction of the iPhone in 2007. America at the time was not a very savvy mobile environment so no one expected the next mobile disruption to come from Silicon Valley. Android doesn't count as a disruption; it is more of a corporate response to the emergence of the "post-PC" environment that was developing as the desktop browser lost dominance. The last disruption in the mobile space was the marketing term "ecosystem". Before iOS and Android, OS's existed that had apps, stores, cloud storage, ran on devices other than "phones", we just didn't have the term ecosystem.
So today it's all about the ecosystem. Is it big? Is it open? Is it forked? No device has a chance if it does not have a robust ecosystem. On November 21-22 at the Slush Startup conference a new OS and ecosystem will be born.
Enter Jolla Mobile.
Does it have a leg to stand on? You probably never heard of the Nokia N9, let alone touched one, it was the last device created by the OSSO (Open Source Systems Operations) group at Nokia – it was called the god phone, it won the 2012 D&AD Yellow Pencil Award in product design/interactive design, beating the iPad2 (since when does anyone beat Apple at product design?), it's UX made the short list at IXDA 2012 Interaction awards, it was called the most innovative device since the iPhone. So you're wondering how come you have never heard of the Nokia N9? Because the N9 and its Meego OS conflicted with Nokia's new Windows Phone Strategy and was sold only in markets like Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Malaysia – not in North America or Major European countries.
The guys who brought to market the Nokia N9 are now Jolla Mobile.
So how do four guys, whose life's work was axed by Nokia when it moved to the Windows Phone strategy, think that they can succeed? Easy, be the next disruption, and this is exactly where open source and China come into play.
So what about the new OS? The core is Mer an open, mobile optimized, core distribution (Linux), powered by QT/QML, EFL and HTML5 that supports Intel x86, ARM and MIPS architectures. So Mer runs on everything from a Rasberry Pi, to mobiles, Tablets, Smart TV's, Desktops and embedded systems. Mer itself has no UX and this is where Jolla plans to create a disruption. If the Nokia N9 is any indication Jolla will deliver an exceptional UX, one hint is that Jolla is looking to put an end to the opening and closing of apps paradigm used in devices today. November 21-22 the new UI will be unveiled along with the SDK.
BUT THE ECOSYSTEM?
Jolla says they have an app store running… you say "so what, show me the apps!" This is where it gets interesting.
- The use of QT means thousands of existing high quality QT apps will be available; also RIM's new Blackberry 10 uses QT apps as well, so we have greater ecosystem synergies for developers.
- Jolla's devices may run any of Androids 400,000+ apps. The Dalvik VM has been running on the core OS for some time- this means Android Apps run natively, not as emulations or virtualizations on this new OS.
- Great HTML 5 support in the core OS.
So from an application perspective Jolla may end up as the 3rd largest ecosystem overnight. For QT and Android developers this is a whole new way to monetize applications.
But what about my cloud? Well Jolla has set up a data center in Hong Kong Cyberport to host data, collaboration services and cloud services; they also have a signed deal with China's largest device retailer to move devices. China is a big focus for Jolla, they want to eat Google's lunch in China. China in particular is looking for an Android alternative due to the restrictions of the Open Handset Alliance. In mid-September Google told Acer that it could not use the Aliyun OS (A fork of Android.) for a low cost smartphone for China, if it did Google would terminate its Android cooperation with Acer. Additionally it does not help that China does not have an official Google Play store. To put this in perspective China is a mobile market with over 1.3 BILLION subscribers, over 4 times the size of the U.S. market.
The other thing that Jolla has going for it, is that is it licensing the OS to other manufactures with a very unique pitch, Jolla isn't affected by the patent litigation affecting the wider industry. The core OS is Open, the UI is developed fresh by Jolla and the basic FRAND standards are covered.
So 2013 will be an important year for mobile; Windows phone looks to become relevant, RIM hopes to re-enter the mobile landscape as a credible smartphone player, and a small group of Open Source activists hope to offer a credible alternative to iOS and Android.