Meet Jolla, the new mobile company on the scene, and see its Sailfish mobile OS in action

You may not have heard of Jolla before now, but that’s OK, as it’s a new company just emerging onto the mobile scene, although it has its roots firmly inside the industry. A Finnish startup, Jolla is working on a new mobile platform under the name of Sailfish, which is being built on the same platform as MeeGo, the OS Nokia abandoned in favour of Windows Phone.

Jolla is filled with staff who worked for Nokia and on the MeeGo project, and it has a unique take on how to differentiate itself in a market dominated by Android and iOS. At an event in Finland today, Jolla revealed the Sailfish OS for the first time, and talked about how it was meeting the challenge of entering a fiercely competitive market.

The emphasis was on collaboration — both with its users and business partners — contribution, fun and creating a new way of working. Sailfish won’t be a “walled garden” like Apple’s iOS, but will continue to be community driven, much like MeeGo and Symbian before it.

Jolla’s CEO, Marc Dillon, took to the stage to demonstrate the new platform. He showed how Sailfish could be personalised using photos stored in the phone’s memory, which wouldn’t just affect the device’s wallpaper, but the “ambiance” of the phone too, altering the colour of transparent panels and key parts of the OS itself.

Sailfish’s homescreen uses rectangular panels to show which apps are running, and each has its own set of controls to stop you needing to visit the app itself to make simple adjustments. The OS relies on gestures for navigation, and as you can see in the video below, it’s smooth, slick and easy to use. If you’ve seen or used MeeGo in the past, you’re sure to recognize its influence.

China first, then the world

Jolla has chosen China as the first country to get its phones, calling it “the most dynamic smartphone market in the world,” but it will be bringing them out elsewhere at a later date. One Finnish network has already pledged to promote and sell Jolla hardware in the future, and the company is also exploring opportunities to supply its phones directly to networks. In this case, they would be re-branded in a similar way to how Orange and Vodafone often work with Huawei and ZTE.

Sadly, no hardware was shown at the event, but chip manufacturer ST-Ericsson has signed up to power future Jolla phones. ST-Ericsson’s NovaThor chips have been seen in several Huawei devices in the past, as well as the new Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini.

Jolla is aware of the mountain it has to climb in order to compete with Android, iOS, Windows Phone and in the near future, BlackBerry 10 too. But it has been told it can’t compete so often, it doesn’t seem to pay much attention anymore. Dillon said the mobile world needs another eco-system, one which is open and fun, while the industry itself is also looking for change.

He believes Jolla is in a unique position to fill this gap, as it’s not established in anyway and therefore has no rules to follow or market share to protect. By choosing China first, Jolla has proved it’s not going to let these progressive ideas rule its head though, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how it progresses over the coming months.

Take a look at a hands-on video of Jolla’s Sailfish OS in action below, and look out for more news in the near future.

About Andrew Boxall

Andy's fascination with mobile tech began in the 90s, at a time when SMS messages were considered cutting edge, but it would be at least a decade before he would put finger-to-keyboard as a freelance tech writer. In the interim he wrote about travel, formulated strong opinions about films and drove a series of audacious cars