Thursday, May 14, 2015

What is keeping Sailfish OS alive

Image by Jolla
In my previous post, I used Windows phone as an example of how focusing too much on design can hurt your product. This post is a follow-up for it, focusing on the importance of design intentions and the overall reasons to do things in the first place.

Be realistically ambitiuos

For the sake of comparison, let's pretend that Jolla chose the strategy everyone expected it to choose: follow iOS and Android to join the mobile OS and smartphone business. Just close your eyes, and picture Jolla offering the same experience what Apple, Samsung and others already do.

Wonderful, here's the thing: that strategy has been perfected by Apple, Google (later Samsung et al.) since 2005. They will keep doing so in the future, without any intentions of slowing down. 7 years later Jolla was ready to compete against industry giants, with the announcement of Sailfish OS.

Enough pretending. Competing with this strategy, against these guys, is like trying to race against a bullet train, with a bicycle, without pedals. You will get nowhere; even if you pretend to. It's utterly silly to think you can beat them in their own game they've rigged beyond recovery.

You'll be spending all your time on things you can't compete with. And since everything you implement has a cost, it's more logical to find a simple solution for all those things that make your product a reality. Move through the mandatory feature list as fast as you can, so that you can save time and effort to use on what, in your vision, makes you relevant.

This is where Microsoft stumbled. WP tried to create value too close to competition, instead of building on top of and strengthening existing ones; those that made Microsoft relevant. In the end WP sabotaged Microsoft's opportunity to not limit its users to stationary computing. Their ambition to build a smartphone OS ended up instead limiting people also on the go. Looks like they're finally fixing this with Windows 10, so let's move on.

Be honest to what you exist for

Three years after the Windows phone launch, Sailfish OS rolled out as a very limited and rough experience. You were all set, if you had enough interest and patience to wade through tutorials, reviews and forum posts. It worked if you knew exactly what you were doing, but it didn't leave any room for user errors. There was hardly any guidance to help user. To be open about things, we shipped it with a beta stamp. Digital pioneers and average consumers alike received their copy, installed on the finest hardware we had access to; a mid-range phone on all accounts. A failure by industry standards.

But the thing is, we're not competing solely within industry standards; things what others already master. We have our minimal solutions for those, but our real business is where others cannot easily go. Either because they're too scared, lack the required vision, or don't really care as long as they can convince people buying their next wave of latest and greatest.

People deserve more natural and focused interfaces than current industry standards require. We need more openness, collaboration and sustainability =  a thorough value domain reset. Automation and computing in general are less about the technology, and more about finding a common direction to increase human potential; everyone deserves more time for things that are defining humanity.

What makes Jolla and Sailfish OS relevant, is our reasons to exist in the mobile space, and what our actions stand for in contrast to the competition. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what keeps Sailfish OS alive. Not what it can directly offer, because it's not much at the moment. There's a mountain of work remaining -- actually -- make that two mountains; the operating system alone is not what you need for your computing tasks. It's merely a start.

We still need apps, more supported services and other natural functionality integration points. They are paramount in making sure Sailfish OS also stays relevant. There's a big functionality debt we owe our community. It's through their passion and trust, that we've given this chance to make a difference.

Respecting that debt would not only be human, but also an exception that this industry sorely needs to change.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next post. In the meantime, agree or disagree, debate or shout. Bring it on and spread the word.


  1. Hi Jaakko,

    I still call myself a Symbian user. I had few Android devices, but my primary phone is still old beloved 701.

    I hate idea of Android and iOS. These system just take users their freedom of control (Android is modifiable, but not every and blah blah). No mass storage access to memory, no (usable) multitasking, permanent spying, pushing us to cloud services and more and more.

    Jolla still have beautiful and great ideas and idealism from mobile past - I love it. How days come, I realizing I don't want Brave New World (or it's already today?). My privacy, my thoughts, my time is property of mine.

    This is why I buy Jolla next week.

    You rock guys =)

    1. Hi Naecken,

      I guess all products have their pros and cons, like it should be. People need options to choose from, and that's also why Jolla doesn't have to be Apple, Samsung or Microsoft. It's enough that we're who we are.

      Making an OS and a phone was hard, supporting and developing it further feels at times even harder. I'm happy to hear, that what we can offer at the moment, in comparison to feature sets from the competition, matches with your values.

      Welcome aboard, and thanks for your nice comment. Hope to see you again :)

  2. I worry that Jolla's successful tablet Kickstarter could be the success that kills them. If there are any more significant delays, or if the tablet SailfishOS is rough and buggy (for "digital pioneers" only), the new global customer base that Jolla has accumulated could be destroyed by disappointment.

    1. Hi qole,

      I guess we all, deep down, share that same fear. It's the downside of crowd-sourcing, since you start by selling, and then start making it. But at least we have a lot of learnings from the phone launch, and will be aiming higher this time.

      In the end, we'll just have to do our best and see what kind of tablet it gives us.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by to comment. Take care :)

    2. Hi Qole

      I understand your worry, but I don't think Jolla should not launch a tablet for fear of failure. It's a risk, but I think it has to try and launch new products to stand a chance of surviving and being successful. Fingers crossed!