Why has MeeGo OS been discontinued

The week: With the dinghy through the icy North Sea

Almost three years ago, the then Nokia boss Stephen Elop spoke of Nokia as a burning oil platform and advised jumping into the cold North Sea. Shortly thereafter, Nokia announced that it would use Windows Phone in the future. The development of the Linux-based operating system Meego was discontinued and many of the Meego employees left the company. The Finns listlessly published their work, the Nokia N9, only on secondary markets. In the meantime, Nokia's mobile phone division including Elop has been sold to Microsoft.

A group of former employees around Jussi Hurmola and Marc Dillon did not give up. At the end of 2011 they founded the company Jolla (German dinghy) with funds from Nokia's “Bridge” social plan. Some of the former Meego developers can be found in this lifeboat, but also new faces like Carsten Munk. He is one of the initiators of the free Meego alternative Mer Project. And it is precisely this mobile Linux that Jolla uses for its Sailfish OS operating system. As with Maemo and Meego, Sailfish is not one hundred percent free software: The substructure is open source, but the graphic interface Sailfish UI is proprietary. If you are toying with installing Sailfish on another device, then Jolla has come to the wrong address.

Get back to basics with cell phone cases

The Finns not only try to score points with software, but also to tie in with the tradition of high-quality telephones of their former employer: Finnish design as a trademark. In addition, there is free use of the maps and navigation software from Nokia Here Maps.

Jolla also takes up another successful concept from Nokia's history: Cell phone cases - this time not as a playful design alternative, but as an intelligent back cover. An NFC chip signals the change of the back to the mobile phone, whereupon apps start, the user interface and sound profile change or other actions are carried out. "The Other Half" is an integral part of the Jolla smartphone.

Future "Other Halfs" will show whether this is a desperate grabbing of the moth box or an innovative unique selling point. Because with a bidirectional power connection and data bus (I2C), Jolla cleverly picks up on a trend of recent years: hardware tinkering. Various projects with Arduino, Raspberry Pi and Co. have shown that hackers are (again) interested in tinkering with hardware. Extensions for Sailfish OS are not limited to apps and plugins: The fans are already working on ideas for back covers with keyboards, additional batteries or multimedia sets. Jolla encourages third-party manufacturers to develop their own covers.

Nothing works without Android apps

Jolla is also entering into new collaborations, for example with the Android app store of the Russian search engine operator Yandex. Above all, Jolla wants to make it easier for the developers, because Android apps run - unlike on the Blackberry - without adjustment under Sailfish OS. This step is important, because without the support for Android apps, the end threatens with the argument of a lack of app diversity. N900 users already know that: Ported Linux applications such as Mplayer, Gpodder or Tomboy are a poor substitute if apps from the timetable information to the app of the car sharing provider are missing.

But Jolla is not allowed to repeat the Meego mistakes from Nokia times. The API for app development must remain stable. The constant change of the frameworks (Gtk, Qt 4, Qt 5, QML) with the predecessors put even committed developers to a hard test. The only question is: why would someone develop a native Qt app when Sailfish is compatible with Android?

Hard core of enthusiasts

If you look around at Linux conferences, you will discover a surprising number of Nokia N9 and N900s. For the first 100,000 smartphones, Jolla wants to have interested parties willing to pay, but the company is silent about exact sales figures. There are numerous users on social networks who are eagerly awaiting their copy. But Jolla has to achieve at least a respectable success in the mass market in order to have a future. Investors will certainly not be impressed by Linux enthusiasts and the continued high prices for the predecessor devices on Ebay. And even if Jolla is targeting the Chinese market: Those who spend so much money on a smartphone may prefer an iPhone as a status symbol.

But the lack of Play Store, iCloud, and other services in times of the NSA affair can also be an opportunity. Security of privacy without having to do without a modern smartphone could serve as a purchase argument. The ecosystem, the user interface and the "other halfs" must first show whether they can compensate for the hardware, which is rather weak for the purchase price. Then, with a bit of luck, Jolla will reach safe shore - perhaps even as the future cell phone division of a currently troubled Finnish corporation. (odi)