Although CEO Jussi Hurmola of tells us he's surprised of the response Jolla Mobile has gotten from international press, he really shouldn't be. The Finnish company embodies all the elements of good storytelling: abandonment, redemption, and huge (but surmountable) obstacles to overcome. Jolla Mobile is a Helsinki-based company building a brand new handset manufacturer from from underutilized people and pieces from Nokia and the surrounding ecosystem. They're designing their own phone and using MeeGo, the Nokia open-source operating system that only made it on the N9.
The company is not a whitelabel manufacturer trying to throw something together using MeeGo; they see themselves as the new brand on the block. The company was founded in October of last year, and was able to convince investors and industry heavyweights to raise €10 million and put together a feasible strategy to release a phone within a year, and perhaps even by Christmas.
Jolla tells us their investors are private investors from Finland and abroad. Ironically, Jolla Mobile is also part of the Nokia Bridge program, which provides capital and resources to ex-Nokia employees to help burden the blow of layoffs. Trying to figure out what the company's goals were, I asked what benchmarks their investors were hoping to hit, but CEO Jussi Hurmola told us that their financing is set up so that they remain much in control of their product so that they can remain flexible and creative.
CEO Jussi Hurmola was kind enough to give us an interview, but that doesn't mean there are a ton of specifics to report. The company is still quiet on the real details, like what the phone will look like, what kind of features it will offer, price points, and so on.
"We want to inherit the best elements from MeeGo," says Hurmola. He does mention that they believe multitasking is an issue that other smartphones don't do well, by making users open and close apps constantly. As far as the UI design goes, Hurmola says that he's very fond of his N9, but clearly they're planning on bringing more to the table than the N9's Swipe UI.
On top of the standard feature set for your average user, the phone will offer a developer mode that developers and enthusiasts can use to get more out of the device. Exactly how much access to the device, however, is still being decided right now according to the company.
A smartphone with out any apps is fairly undesirable these days, so building an app ecosystem will be a major challenge for Jolla. Hurmola only commented that they believe they have the answer to that problem, but it's difficult to imagine how exactly they will build that support considering that Microsoft is pumping millions into its ecosystem (such as programs like AppCampus), with only fair results.
The "developer mode" of the phone may be one vector Jolla is using to get developers excited about the device. If Jolla can offer a device that enthusiasts can really tweak and hack, we may find more and more devices in the hands of developers, who will build apps for themselves and others. Jolla Mobile is still without a website. But when asked how developers can find out more about developing apps or finding out more, Hurmola says that they can be contacted through their Twitter account to find out more about community calls.
When asked what the biggest obstacles they've had to overcome so far, Hurmola had a few that came to mind. Financing a challenging problem to solve, while setting up the team with its core talent wasn't easy either, but he's happy with what they've put together. Hurmola also mentioned that it was difficult to get into serious talks with industry partners before the company publicly announced anything, as well.
The company has a lot on it's plate. It has to successfully execute on four levels: the device, ecosystem, marketing, and manufacturing. But they remain optimistic with their funding and team that they can put it all together.
"If I look at market, it's changing dramatically," says Hurmola." Product categories come and go if you look at tablets and netbooks and so on. Companies grow large and then go. Right now Samsung is up but that wasn't always the case."
"One side of the story is that we are trying to create a new change. This market is ready to change any time."