Can the Sailfish mobile operating system, based on the MeeGo platform developed by Intel and Nokia, gain some traction? That possibility is being raised, following word on Monday that Sailfish is now compatible with Android apps and hardware.
Jolla, the Finland-based company behind Sailfish, said that users will be able to "take full advantage of the Android application ecosystem available through various app stores globally," so that users can "seamlessly download Android apps just as they would do on any Android device."
Jolla has been touting Sailfish as being Android-compliant, although this is the first formal declaration of Android compatibility. However, those app stores will be third-party ones, not Google's Play marketplace.
Jolla CEO Tomi Pienimaki told news media that such highly popular Android apps as Instagram, WhatsApp and Spotify will run directly on the Sailfish OS. The company also said that it had made "a major breakthrough in Android hardware compatibility" in that Sailfish can run on hardware that has been built for Android devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
A key market for Sailfish, as it is for Apple and every other mobile device maker that is looking for new markets, is China. Jolla said it is currently in discussions with several major Asian vendors about offering Sailfish-based devices for that country.
Jolla, based in Helsinki, has R&D sites in Helsinki and Tampere, Finland, and an office in Hong Kong. It was founded by former Nokia employees. Although the MeeGo project at Nokia ended following Nokia's adoption of the Windows Phone OS, Jolla believes that this open-source Sailfish descendant of MeeGo still has a future. One problem it apparently will not have in the future is a need to build a massive app library to compete with Apple and Android, as Microsoft and BlackBerry have to do.
This week, Jolla is offering a second round of pre-orders for Sailfish devices, complementing the first round held in May.
That first phone, which does not have a model name, will begin shipping by the end of this year and will cost slightly more than $500. The company said orders have been received from more than 130 countries. The Sailfish phone has a 4.5-inch screen, a dual-core processor, 16GB storage, a microSD card, an 8-megapixel camera, a replaceable battery, and 4G LTE. A removable back cover, available in different colors, is intended to offer some level of hardware personalization.
In early summer, Jolla said that the Finland-based carrier DNA became the first to offer a Sailfish phone. In 2012, it announced a deal with the largest smartphone retail chain in China, D.Phone, to carry Sailfish handsets in the chain's 2000 stories. Jolla is also making an effort to appeal to national pride by seeking "Finnish customers who want to express their passion for the Finnish mobile industry."
Sailfish is the most recent generation based on efforts to build an alternative mobile platform. Intel's Moblin platform and Nokia's Maemo merged to become MeeGo, a joint Linux-based project. After Nokia adopted Windows Phone in 2010, Intel said it was forging ahead with MeeGo, and Sailfish is based on MeeGo.