MeeGo’s not dead, it was only sleeping: new startup Jolla announces plans for new MeeGo smartphone

Jolla MeeGoJolla is a startup company from Finland with an exciting vision, as it plans to breathe new life into the MeeGo mobile operating system, which was unceremoniously dropped by Nokia several years ago, in favor of Windows Phone.

Led by former MeeGo principal engineer Marc Dillon, the team is apparently awash with keen ex-Nokia and MeeGo staff, and it’s actively recruiting more too.

Here’s a little history in case you’re not familiar with MeeGo. It was born from the merging of Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin Linux platforms, and designed to be used on everything from smartphones to in-car entertainment systems.

That was in early 2010, but everything changed when Nokia jumped aboard the Microsoft train in 2011, abandoning both MeeGo and Symbian at the side of the tracks. The Nokia N9 was launched to fulfill contractual obligations, but its limited release meant not everyone could try the critically well-received device.

Although the N9 and its cousin the N950 have seen software updates and gained a healthy, independent app development eco system, MeeGo as a commercial prospect was all but finished.

Jolla to the rescue

This is where Jolla comes in, as it believes Nokia and Intel created something very special in MeeGo, and wants to pick up where the mobile giant left off. Calling it “the world’s best smartphone product,” Jolla’s ambitious plan is outlined in a mission statement on the company’s Facebook page, which says:

“Together with international investors and partners, Jolla will design, develop and sell new MeeGo based smartphones.”

There’s still a while to go before we see the fruits of Jolla’s labor though, but a spokesperson did tell Reuters that the first Jolla MeeGo phone would be unveiled later this year.

Rather than use the Harmattan interface used on the Nokia device, Jolla will use an entirely new user interface, and the OS will be based on the community-managed Mer core, which runs Qt and HTML5.

While Jolla has attracted considerable attention and MeeGo’s fan base is certain to embrace it and its products, breaking into the smartphone market these days is no easy task.

Mid-range challengers

It’s not just that they’ll need an ongoing, sustainable and exciting product range, but outside of the big names — Apple, Google, Microsoft — which MeeGo can’t compete against at the moment, there is a huge amount of mid-level competition too.

Leaving aside the hundreds of affordable Android phones, Nokia’s Symbian is still going, and S40 does a passable impression of a smartphone OS; plus Mozilla has recently announced Firefox OS, a browser-based mobile platform aimed at the mid-range, and then there is the Intel/Samsung co-project Tizen.

All of these are interesting, but we’ve yet to see what really matters from the new challengers — actual hardware everyone can go out and buy. If Maemo, Moblin, the many other open source mobile operating system projects and even MeeGo itself have taught us anything, it’s that not all of them make it that far.

Will Jolla help MeeGo become an exception to the rule?