Jolla's Sailfish is an OS I can get behind, and you probably can tooAnna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
New operating systems entering the smartphone industry have a hard time gaining any initial traction these days. The cause? Simply put, they missed the train that started it all. While there's certainly room to grow if the right OS is made, it's still going to be hard to convince the vast amount of users already happy with Android, iOS and even Windows Phone or BlackBerry that they should switch to this new platform - likely a platform that has even less application support than what they're currently offered. It could be considered risky business for a person to purchase an entirely new phone running on a brand new OS; if you don't like it, you're out of luck, and you've probably wasted a pretty penny just to find that out.
Which is kind of why I'm rather intrigued by Finnish company Jolla's new Sailfish OS. Sailfish is an interesting concept, but so is the company who created it. The story originally begins with Nokia, who you probably know these days for being prominent in the Windows Phone market. However, before they put their focus on Windows Phone, Nokia had been working on another platform dubbed "MeeGo". Once Windows Phone was part of the game, though, MeeGo development was put on the back burner. It was at this point that the MeeGo team, once a part of Nokia, broke off to form their own company in order to keep MeeGo going. The company, of course, is Jolla. Although the MeeGo name will never make it to shelves or in the palms of people's hands, the spirit of MeeGo will in the form of Sailfish OS; the only part of MeeGo that is in Sailfish are some of the open-sourced components.
Now that you know a little more about how Sailfish came to be, let's talk a little more about why Sailfish OS might just be worth your while to check out. First and foremost, Jolla is currently working on a port to most high-end Android devices. Think of it like flashing a ROM to your phone, although instead a ROM it would be a brand new OS. It's kind of like how Ubuntu handled their platform's software, which was only available for flashing to the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy Nexus. Sailfish does have their own hardware running the software in other parts of the world, but for places like the United States they would need to come up with a different strategy that would make it easy for people to see what Sailfish is all about. That's why, alongside making flashable images for high-end smartphones, Jolla also plans to release a Sailfish launcher in the Google Play Store.
Launchers, if you've never used one, is pretty much a basic skin redesign in Android smartphones. If you've ever been interested in changing the way your phone looks, but aren't too keen on going so deep as to root and flash ROMs due to increased risk of bricking your phone, then launchers are the way to go. You may have even come across some launchers in the Play Store already, like Launcher Pro, Nova Launcher, APEX launcher, GOLauncher, etc. There are already plenty to choose from, but none that will give you the taste of a brand new OS. The great thing about a Sailfish launcher is that the launcher will pretty closely emulate what you can do on the actual OS, because Sailfish is supposed to run Android applications just as well as any Android phone. The difference?
Jolla put a lot of emphasis on making their OS simple to use and gesture-based. Gesture-based platforms are something that sound good, and if done correctly can actually work rather well considering how large smartphones are getting these days. In a lot of ways, the current Android setup isn't optimized for one handed use from the get go. You have your notification bar on the top, icons all over the home screen, and the only real open gesture based movement is getting from one home screen to the next via swiping right or left. Sailfish, on the other hand, is optimized for gesture-based movements all over. Combining that with the fact that Sailfish already has access to most Android applications, you have a pretty solid start for an OS.
While I can't say that Sailfish will blow you away or that it's going to be the best thing since sliced bread, I do admire how accessible they're making the platform - a ton of people already use Android phones, and even if you don't there are surprisingly a lot of cheap options in order to get your hands on one if you were really interested in seeing what Sailfish is all about. I know I'll be keeping my eye out for it for my HTC One.
Readers, what do you think about this move from Jolla? Will you be trying out the Sailfish launcher once it's available? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!