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One Giant Leap for MeeGo

After 12 years at Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Jussi Hurmola leapt from his employer's notorious "burning platform" earlier this year and landed as CEO of a new smartphone company called Jolla Ltd. (See Nokia Refugees Revive MeeGo and Euronews: MeeGo Is Reborn.)

Hurmola now leads the Finnish startup that plans to design, develop and sell smartphones based on the MeeGo open-source operating system, which was spurned by his former employer Nokia in favor of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Windows Phone OS.

Headquartered in Helsinki, with an R&D facility in Tampere, Finland, the company has about 50 employees comprising a group of former Nokia employees who had been working on the MeeGo N9 device as well as other MeeGo professionals. Hurmola himself was director of Nokia's MeeGo program. (See Startup Develops MeeGo Smartphones.)

Beyond that basic information, though, little is known about his company, such as who the investors are, how much funding it has raised, details about its products, and when it will actually sell those products.

But we do know that the word Jolla in the Finnish language means a small sailboat.

In an interview with Light Reading Mobile, Hurmola did not reveal details about the new products or identify the company's private investors, but he did say that he wants to bring something genuinely new to the market.

"We're concentrating on the user interface and the user experience," he said. "We want to create something new. [Apple's] iOS and [Samsung's] Galaxy have been out there for a while. There is an expectation for something new and fresh in the market."

Hurmola dropped a clue about what such a different user experience could be like when he talked of the multi-tasking and event-collecting capabilities of the MeeGo OS. However, what Jolla is working on is not exactly MeeGo, but an OS that is based on MeeGo.

"We've learned a lot from the first MeeGo product [Nokia's N9]," he said. "MeeGo is about multi-tasking -- having all your apps and information available to you at the same time and having multiple screens of apps open and all usable at the same time."

So how does a little company with 50 employees -- with plans to expand to 100 staff by the end of the year -- take on smartphone giants like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Samsung Corp. , or even his old company Nokia?

Hurmola said that's not his goal.

"We're fighting for something, not against something," he said. "What we are building, we will make a difference in the market -- a new ecosystem, a new user experience."

And Hurmola knows Jolla will need strong partners to achieve that. The company has already teamed with the largest mobile phone retailer in China, called D.Phone Group, which Hurmola said is the first of its partnerships that will be announced.

Hurmola noted that the Chinese distribution deal should not be taken as a hint for where Jolla plans to launch first.

"We are aiming for a global market, but want to have a local element," he said. "[The D.Phone deal] is very important for us because it shows that we have substance behind our message -- the devices will be sold and will be popular."

Hurmola said he is also talking to mobile operators. "Operator subsidies generally are very important for companies who sell devices," he said. "We're negotiating with operators to make sure that we are mutually benefiting. We are a small player and we need big partners."

So when will the market see these new devices and try out the user experience?

"We will reveal the device later this year," he said. "We're not communicating sale start date. And we're not promising something we can't keep."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:25:58 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo

Really interesting story. I'm not sure I can see Jolla making it big with MeeGo. But I think I can understand the labor-of-love aspect -- you've got a group of developers who get a chance to make something out of the code they worked hard on, and that's a good thing.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:25:54 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo

Why not?  I’m not saying your opinion is wrong, but could you elaborate?  Have you even used MeeGo?


Android started off as a small company.  Intel took “MeeGo” and partnered with Samsung to make Tizen.  Samsung already has developer devices out there and has published one software update to the device.  Since then, no other news, no device announced, no nothing.  Being large or small doesn’t really matter.  Microsoft is huge but yet WM has better market share than WP.  WebOS was backed by Palm and then HP, where is it today?  How about BB?  They are fairly large but yet they are having issues.  Nokia **was** huge and now they are down to nothing.  Remember Danger?  They started off small and then Microsoft bought them and gave us the Kin which was a total failure.  The same developers were moved to WP.

You still have people developing for Symbian and that requires Qt.  Jolla will also be using Qt as well as HTML5.  Care to guess where the industry is headed?  HTML5 and the underlying OS starts to mean less.  Sure there will always be native apps but developers will start to use HTML5 more and more.  No app store to worry about, code once and it supports multiple devices and no developer kits you are forced to use.  If you are a developer and you want to write for Android and iOS you need to use two different SDK’s.  There are companies that allow their SDK to be used for multiple platforms but Apple won’t publish any app on their store unless you use their SDK.

Take away the native apps and then compare the various OS’s.  What does iOS and Android offers that the others do not?

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:25:50 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo

I understand what you're saying (and no, I've never used MeeGo).

It's just that, as we've learned repeatedly in the consumer space, something being good doesn't equate to it being successful.  What iOS and Android have that MeeGo doesn't is enormous brand value, at least in the U.S.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:25:49 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo

Enormous brand value?  So from day one Android had enormous brand value?  That is news to me and I’m sure to the rest of the world as well.  Android started off with no brand value but caught the eye of Google.


“It's just that, as we've learned repeatedly in the consumer space, something being good doesn't equate to it being successful.”

Just because you have brand recognition doesn’t mean a product will be successful.  Kin, WM and WP are all prime examples and for good measure WebOS.

You are also forgetting that Apple has seen customers defect to Android as some are tired of the silly restrictions that Apple has placed upon them.  The market will dictate what is successful and what isn’t, but when you have never used the product, how can you make a judgment call based upon brand value?  Back to where we started, Android had none to start with.  MeeGo is at least starting with some.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:25:47 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo

> Enormous brand value?  So from day one Android had enormous brand value?

No.  Right now it does. I think we're talking about different things.

Look, you put up a great argument.  I hope you're right.  I'm just more of a cynical bastard when it comes to evaluating my fellow consumers -- they're in love with Apple, they see Android on TV, and I don't think they'll do much more comparison shopping than that. I think Windows will have a tough time, and MeeGo will be even further down the checklist. 

You ask how I can make a judgment without having seen the product ... well, that's how a lot of consumers shop.

One thing I didn't consider: MeeGo doesn't have to grow to Apple/McDonalds/Sony size to count itself a success -- maybe it can find a solid niche. That would be a really nice story.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:25:47 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo

Android started off with no brand value.  You are basing your argument based upon that.  Using your theory, Windows has a huge brand value but yet they are at the bottom of the list in terms of sales.  Brand value doesn’t mean anything.  Android was the underdog and now they are on top.  Microsoft was an established player with WM and yet they are at the back of the pack.


If the world operated at the right here and right now, we wouldn’t have fire, a round wheel, any tools, etc.  Innovation has to come from somewhere and history shows us that is typically doesn’t come from the big guys.  Cisco was a startup and turned the networking industry on its head.  Now how does Cisco innovate?  Through acquisition is how.  Android was not invented by Google, it was purchased by Google.  Where did it come from, by the co-founder of Danger.  Danger was later bought by Microsoft and gave us the Kin.  How about Apple?  What if Apple didn’t buy NeXT in 1996?  OS X would not be what it is today and neither would iOS.  NeXT was not a big company nor had huge brand value.  The biggest would have been no Steve Jobs back at Apple.


Having huge or no brand value to start with doesn’t mean anything.  You can make a name for yourself. You might always be small, you might be out of business or you can be a huge success.  If Android could become huge, why not something else?  There is no secret sauce that Google used to make it successful.


Like I said, take the apps out of the equation and compare the various OS’s.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:25:46 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo

I think we have to stop, Ian -- I respect your opinions and would say some of them do trump mine. But you're not having the same discussion I am.

patentchoi 12/5/2012 | 5:25:45 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo

I can understand MeeGo having a value proposition compared to iOS and WP but its real battle would be against Android due to a similar business model.

Currently Android has got a lot of traction even outside Google and I haven't heard many fundamental (business model) issues there. Unless Google completely messes up Android in the future I don't see why folks will start looking at Meego.


BTW I have never used Meego but if Symbian is any indication of pedigree I would not be too hopeful.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:25:44 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo


“It's just that, as we've learned repeatedly in the consumer space, something being good doesn't equate to it being successful.  What iOS and Android have that MeeGo doesn't is enormous brand value, at least in the U.S.”


“I think we have to stop, Ian -- I respect your opinions and would say some of them do trump mine. But you're not having the same discussion I am.”


Then answer this question, what brand value did Android have in 2006 and prior?  What about in 2007?  How about in 2008?  The first Android phone was the HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1 which was available in October 2008.  Prior to 2008 Android had virtually no brand value as the average consumer never even heard of it let alone smartphone.


You have been basing the fact that MeeGo has no brand value and the fact of the matter is, many products have no brand value when they first start out but they turn out to be successful.  What would you have said about Android  in 2006?  It wouldn’t be successful because it has no brand value?  At that point you have Nokia with over 50% of smartphone market, Palm and Microsoft were in there as well along with Sony-Ericsson with UIQ and Motorola as well.


Microsoft has huge market share on the desktop and the consumer knows Windows, but that brand value has done very little for them in turns of sales for WP.  So, does brand value actually mean anything?  The T-Mobile Sidekick was successful but yet many never heard of Danger.


Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:25:33 PM
re: One Giant Leap for MeeGo

Thanks to @WhatTheBit for pointing this out:

In an interview that Jussi Hurmola did with IntoMobile's Stefan Constantinescu, Hurmola said he already has the initial financing in place for developing the first device and that amount is 10 million euros.

Here's the link:


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