Jolla Ltd. – The phoenix and the zombie






  • The hardy chaps who spun out of Nokia to breathe new life into Meego launched their Sailfish OS yesterday at the Slush start-up event.
  • The company also announced that ST Ericsson would be supporting the OS on its NovaThor platform.
  • This is not as surprising as it sounds like this is a resurrection of the support ST Ericsson announced for Meego when it was part of Nokia.
  • Having a major chip vendor is a good step forward for Jolla none the less.
  • Furthermore as Sailfish is based on Linux it should not be too difficult to implement the OS on many of the other chipsets available in the market.
  • The new OS has made some interesting tweaks to the user experience with multitasking functionality being implemented using live tile-like functions on the home screen.
  • It has also gone for a novel approach to themes with the entire UI being able to adapt to the colour palette and style of any photograph.
  • The focus of Jolla will be the Chinese market as this remains both the largest and fastest growing of all the smartphone markets at the moment.
  • Jolla signed a sales and marketing agreement in July with, a large phone distributor in China, but how this will work and how Jolla makes money from it is unclear.
  • From the tone of the presentation it seems that Jolla aims to make and sell Sailfish devices under its own brand and under white label for others.
  • China sounds like a great idea given the growth but it is a nasty business.
  • Android is now selling at less than $100 and margins of the larger players are already coming under pressure.
  • Smaller vendors come and go with frightening regularity implying that they arrive, lose huge amounts of money and shut down again.
  • How a small Finnish start-up, with R&D in a very high cost country, aims to compete with that is unclear.
  • Furthermore the UI, which looks good, is untested.
  • Phones will have to be sold at interesting prices to get the users interested because at launch there will be far fewer applications available for download.
  • This implies that in the early days margins will be under extreme pressure and I am far from convinced that Jolla has the financial strength to withstand that kind of agony.
  • Jolla has an ecosystem, but it is tiny and the trick will be getting developers to make the most popular applications available on Sailfish.
  • This again will be a tough task as developers follow the money of which there is currently none on Sailfish.
  • A better proposition might be to license the OS to handset vendors and operators but then how do you charge for something that is freely available for $0?
  • The answer to that could be custom implementations. If Jolla can charge $5 a unit for implementing a custom version for an operator or a vendor, the company might just make it.
  • The market is certainly big enough for multiple offerings on mobile handsets, but underneath the Apple segment it is getting so tough that almost no one outside of Apple and Samsung are making any money.
  • Jolla’s choice of China is questionable as it is a place where other players will offer Jolla multiple rows of gleaming fangs rather than friendly hugs.
  • I also think that writing-off developed markets is a mistake.
  • Android looks weak and vulnerable (See here for details) and there is potential for a big upheaval in the current status quo.
  • With the potential for users to jump ship from Android, there is opportunity for Jolla and as such the company should be ready to address that segment.
  • I liked the user experience but the presentation on how Jolla would make money from it was woeful.
  • This is the single most important factor to the survival of this endeavour.
  • Jolla appeared as a phoenix but without the lifeblood of cash flow, it will be nothing more than a zombie with a short afterlife.




4 thoughts on “Jolla Ltd. – The phoenix and the zombie

  1. “R&D in a very high cost country” – Really? R&D is cheaper in Finland than in China.

    • I have a feeling that R&D egineers all buying Ipads and iPhones paying 50%+ tax need to have higher incomes then Chinese ones buiying $70 android and paying no tax at all!!!.,..

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