Jolla Mobile: Refuge of a Sinking MeeGo

Nokia kept MeeGo on life-support for about a year. Is Jolla going to restore it to full vigor?

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I was born the son of a talented architect in bustling San Diego, California.  But after the usual brief incubation period, I truly started life in nearby La Jolla (La Hoya), a smaller, sleepier town of dreamers and sailors.  Thus I find it fitting as a former Maemo product engineer to have at least a tenuous lifeline to an emergent visionary mobile venture in Finland: Jolla (Yolla).

In the native tongue the name means “dinghy”, a not-so-subtle jab at Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s infamously-misguided “burning platform” call to arms in 2011.  Recent escapees from Nokia’s aborted open source adventure announced on Saturday their intention of picking up where Nokia had decided to leave off.  Yes, they are promising a MeeGo phone.

How ironic that this announcement comes so soon after I mused on the Maemo/MeeGo topic a few days ago (quickly followed by Henri Bergius’ much more detailed story), especially since I expressed faint hope for a spinoff.  I don’t know yet if this venture has the blessing of Nokia and/or the Linux Foundation; dare we dream?

On that note, Henri’s poetic title (“The Dreams of the MeeGo Diaspora”) truly summarizes the foggy limbo of MeeGo contributors: official Nokia updates and a Tizen spinoff notwithstanding, the community established around Maemo and then MeeGo have found themselves somewhat adrift the past year or so, many eagerly scanning the mobile horizon for something similar.

And there have been related projects.  OpenMoko persists, and more recently, Mozilla’s Firefox OS looks to have legs as well.  But it’s the community-based Mer that’s provided an irresistible pull for many Maemo/MeeGo expatriots, so it’s pleasing for me to learn that Jolla will be working with that project.

Many other details remain undisclosed, and in their absence rumors naturally fly.  Some speculate that this was a way for Nokia to continue work on open source projects, discreetly, while still remaining true to their problematic Microsoft commitments.  While that’s certainly possible, and similar moves have happened before with other companies, there’s no indication now that this is actually the case with Jolla.  Patiently waiting for further news may be difficult for eager community members but it makes the most sense for now.

I’m going to admit to being excited over this venture even without knowing more.  Along with related efforts like CloudBerryTec, we’re seeing the conviction and passion of visionary ex-Nokians who refuse to let the open mobile dream die.  The amazing follower buildup for Jolla’s twitter account is at least one testament that there remains a highly interested (and possibly desperate) community, and the media has been exhibiting similar curiosity.

We’ll definitely be following closely as well!

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Editor-in-Chief. Making tech accessible since the Jurassic. Personal ramblings at Follow @texrat on Twitter.

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  • dividebyzero

    I am happy… I finally know what my next smartphone will be now! :)

    I am already anticipating they may never display Nokia’s great manufacturing quality, but hopefully they will manage to deliver a product that is even more open than Maemo was.

    I was curious about something you said on twitter: did they get any permission to use the MeeGo name? Or are they saying that just to attract attention, since MeeGo obviously became a well-known brand, much better known than e.g. Maemo or Mer? I hope they don’t put too much wood on MeeGo’s fire, and start being more clear about the fact they are (I suppose) just putting together a new distro, based on stuff that exists, but not really tied to the kaput MeeGo project.

    • Randall Arnold

      Thanks for commenting!

      I don’t know about MeeGo naming rights. I asked, but never got an answer. I’ll try again. If anyone else knows, I hope they’ll respond here!

      • qole

        The MeeGo naming rights are all laid bare on this page:

        And although the corporate sponsors of MeeGo (Nokia and Intel) have walked away from the project, it is sheltered under the Linux Foundation’s umbrella and will therefore live on. Well ok, maybe not live on, maybe it will shuffle on in a zombified state…? Can Jolla take over where the big corps dropped out? I don’t see Mer mentioned anywhere as an official continuation of the project…

        • Randall “texrat” Arnold

          I meant something possibly updated in the Tizen aftermath… I have asked the LF but months later I’m still on hold

  • jalyst

    Errm there is something wrong with comments on this site…
    I can only see the 1st disqus post, the rest are cut-off by some sort of design element of the site.


    • Randall “texrat” Arnold

      It’s a random bug. Still no known solution…

  • jalyst

    As for naming rights, I hope to God they don’t use the MeeGo name.
    They couldn’t think of anything worse IMO…
    It’s fine to use it as a hook temporarily, but at the formal announcement I want a entirely different name.
    (maybe even start using the new name few wk/mths before formal announcement)

    • Randall “texrat” Arnold

      On one hand I agree. I never liked the name. BUT– if these devices are truly MeeGo-compatible, it makes sense to capitalize on a name that already has some recognition. It should be easy to rally and reboot the community, too.

  • jalyst

    I cant reply to the latest post directly due to this bug & no time for an in-depth response.
    I disagree, I think it’d be a big mistake, the whole narrative around MeeGo is toxic IMO.
    Plus the name always sucked (Jolla’s not a whole lot better but it’s a fresh start).