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Can MeeGo-Powered Jolla Smartphones Kill Nokia?

Last weekend, the story about Jolla broke. In the nightmare of bad news that is the Nokia saga this past 15 months or so – one profit warning after another, mass layoffs and market share collapse – something beautiful is rising from the ashes.

Nokia had set up a very considerate way of dealing with departing (mostly fired) Nokia employees. For instance, Nokia would try to help them secure their next job. In some cases, vast numbers of them went to another employer directly, to continue the same work, such as the thousands of Symbian developers that were moved to Accenture. Another novel way was for Nokia to encourage small teams, up to 4 Nokia departing staff, to set up new start-ups in this digital space. They did not get a Nokia ownership stake, but rather, a guaranteed loan. Not huge, but 25,000 Euros per person, so get three of your pals together and you have 100,000 Euros to help start up your new venture. And one of these ventures, already started late last year, is Jolla.

Jolla means ‘dinghy’ i.e. small boat, in Finnish. A particularly delightful meaning in Finland is perhaps the most common usage of ‘jolla’, in relation to the ‘optimisti jolla’, a one-person tiny sailboat on which many of us learn to sail. The optimist dinghy. Isn’t that a wonderful meaning considering the vast oceans of opportunity in digital? These Nokia execs were the true optimists, they were given lemons and they made lemonade. They set up a little boat to pick up some of the people plunging from the Nokia planks into the deadly seas, and rescued them…

Jolla is 50 employees strong already, and the staff all comes from Nokia’s smartphone space, almost all around the MeeGo and its predecessor, Maemo, OS, i.e. working on Linux based open source based smartphones – not unlike Android (but distinctly different) and similar to the upcoming Samsung Tizen. MeeGo is owned by Nokia and Intel, and it’s not quite certain which platforms Jolla will launch on. However, there is talk of a new branch of the Linux OS tree called Mer (in some languages, ‘sea’ – how appropriate). I am not yet sure exactly how Mer relates to Jolla and to MeeGo.

Also there was some vague buzz in the Finnish media that Nokia may have transferred some patents, or the licensing of some patents, to several startups, perhaps including Jolla. But, now that I have checked the IT Viikko story, they have updated it to indicate that they were mistaken in reporting some patents to have been transferred. So this can be regarded as solely rumor.

Nonetheless, Jolla will take the Nokia know-how that produced the astonishing N9, its sister the N950 and its predecessor N900 – and build on this to produce something new in the smartphone/digital gadget space. I am not quite sure if they meant something in the phablets space, but roughly speaking, if you liked the N9, perhaps wanted one, or wanted to see what Nokia would do next – the Jolla team is effectively the next edition, Version 2.0 for the N9 and N950 project. And remember, the N9 garnered such reviews as being called the ‘Godphone’ to the iPhone being the ‘Jesusphone’. This, in addition to winning the ‘design Oscars’, the D&AD Awards, ahead of such weak contenders as the iPad 2.

The know-how here is incredible. The MeeGo platform itself is not necessarily big, but might easily have parallels and synergies with Android and Tizen. This is one company you want to keep your eye on. The leadership is comprised of Dr. Antti Saarnio as Chairman, Jussi Hurmola as CEO, Sami Pienimaki as VP Sales, Stefano Mosconi as CIO, and Marc Dillon as COO. The company is headquartered in Tampere, very near the small town of Nokia, where Nokia pulp, paper and rubber company originally came from and where today’s Nokia got its name. So, this is very much at the ‘roots’ of Nokia and the staff make very clear that they are on friendly terms with Nokia, not a hostile young start-up of departed execs intending to destroy its larger, older rival.

The story of Jolla is now spreading very broadly, already covered by Forbes. One of best stories so far with very detailed information is from the Finnish tech mag, IT Viikko (in Finnish). I asked my Twitter followers if any Finnish blogger could translate the highlights, and my friend, Chris Peake, @creip, at his blog, Peak Mobility, did that for you.

If you are media/press looking for exciting, positive stories amidst the Nokia carnage, Jolla has every chance to be the new tech start-up story from Finland, and could soon become as bright as Rovio (Angry Birds) is today or Sulake (Habbo Hotel) was earlier in the last decade. Please report on Jolla and follow their career.

If you are an investor looking for Tomi’s particular insights into what is below the radar and can become mighty big soon, like my coverage of Flirtomatic or Layar or BookIt or Qustodian in the past, here is another very strong early stage startup in mobile, someone whose pedigree is platinum and whose management team is titanium. This is one handset/smartphone maker who seems like a very promising investment. Please consider them and contact them if you have an interest in joining their growth venture.

Jolla is so fresh, they don’t even have a website yet. You can follow their tweets at @jollamobile and they have a LinkedIn page as Jolla. I hereby openly pledge my full support for the team of Jolla. This is a beautiful opportunity growing from the bigger economic distress that happened at Nokia. Now, grab the oars, start rowing, and raise the little sail. Let’s have Jolla lead us into the new digital sea of Mer and bring us magnificent smartphones soon. Tsemppia Jollalaiset! I am with you!