While Jolla has released their own handset, the main product is the mobile operating system, Sailfish OS. The Jolla handset gives the Finnish company a platform to show off the OS in an optimised environment, but the 400 euro price-tag does raise a rather large financial barrier for the early adopter crowd. That’s why the news regarding produce for Android handsets, released ahead of Monday’s Mobile World Congress event, is intriguing.
By making the Sailfish OS available for free to install on other Android handsets, Jolla will be able to increase the user base and gain more feedback on the OS. Jolla already has a number of early adopters contributing to the code, and the addition of a downloadable and bootable version of the OS will bring in more power-users looking for something different.
It’s a similar strategy to Cyanogen Mod - leverage the existing Android hardware to your own OS and expand the number of instances in use to gather test data and the visibility of the new platform.
Jolla is taking this one step further with the release of an Android launcher. Taking advantage of the open nature of Android, Jolla’s take on a mobile user interface will be ported as an Android app for anyone to download and experience the Finnish implementation of a mobile UI on top of a native Android handset. Given Sailfish OS can support the running of Android apps on native hardware, anyone comfortable in the launcher’s UI should feel more comfortable when considering a Sailfish OS powered handset in the future. From the press release:
The Sailfish community has already ported Sailfish OS into several devices including major versions of popular Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus, and Sony Xperia. Also, porting for highly popular Chinese Xiaomi products is under work in community projects. In addition, Jolla is releasing its own Sailfish user interface launcher as an Android application, which can be used to simulate the Sailfish OS experience on Android devices. The app will be available for download in the near future from Jolla.com and from common Android market places.
Jolla is a very small company (with 150 or so staff) and that means resources such as developer hours are precious and need to be used effectively. The community that has built up around this Finnish company is a vital part of a strategy to improve the operating system, evangelise their vision, and promote the platform. Providing the OS as an alternative for Android hackers, and a ‘safe to use’ replacement UI for power-users, allows Jolla to talk to the existing Android base about the plans for mobile computing over the next few years.
It’s likely the some of them will consider a Sailfish OS device when their mobile contracts come up for renewal, and no doubt many of them will provide feedback to Jolla on the OS and the UI. That lowers the user acquisition cost for Jolla and provides more data points from testing. When you are starting from a small user base, keeping these costs low is one of the keys to managing the limited funds available.
At each step of the process, Jolla continue to delight me with a user-focused approach to improving their open operating system. They are increasing the reach of the platform and who can be involved, improving the capability of the OS and making a smarter mobile OS step by step.
The Android launcher and Sailfish OS distribution for the compatible handsets will be released during the first half of 2014.