Finnish mobile manufacturer Jolla is attending MWC 2017 in Barcelona, where the company reportedly intends to announce its plans for expansion into China. According to a fresh report from TechCrunch citing Jolla's chairman, Antti Saarnio, the company has signed an exclusive license to a Chinese consortium in order to develop a mobile operating system based on Sailfish OS for China. The company along with the Chinese consortium intend to invest $250 million in the new Sailfish-based ecosystem in China, and the chairman reveals that "there are very big players" behind the exclusive license.
Jolla's first smartphone was released in November 2013 and unlike most other smartphones of its generation, the so-called Jolla Phone relied on a proprietary operating system called Sailfish OS, which was initially destined to compete with the likes of Android OS, all the while taking advantage of compatibility with Android applications. Although the platform has shown promise, the Jolla Phone and Sailfish OS made no breakthroughs, even though a second smartphone dubbed the Jolla C running Sailfish OS v2.0 was launched in May 2016 as a limited-edition device geared towards developers and the Sailfish community. Even more interesting to note is the fact that Jolla's first attempt to create an ecosystem for China dates back to the year 2012, when a similarly large investment of $200 million almost put the company on the radars in China. However, according to Antti Saarnio, Chinese investors at that time were reluctant to commit to a different platform beyond the Android Open Source Project, and as a result, the Sailfish-based ecosystem for China never came to be. Nevertheless, Jolla's chairman states that China's philosophy has changed since the year 2012, and in fact, numerous Chinese-based companies – including Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent – are now looking to create their own platforms to compete with Android, not only for the mobile market but also for segments including IoT (Internet of Things) and connected cars. The chairman adds that Sailfish OS could be the answer for hardware companies in China who lack a proper software platform.
In more recent years, Jolla's focus shifted from hardware manufacturing to its software branch, and nowadays the company is looking to push its Sailfish OS as a non-Android mobile solution in countries looking for a platform independent of the United States. This bodes well with the new vision of various Chinese players who are now looking for alternative mobile platforms outside of Google's control and corporate agenda. Interestingly enough, Jolla's chairman also revealed that although the company has yet to enter market segments like IoT (Internet of Things) due to limited resources, an exclusive license to China for Sailfish OS could give the company and its partners the necessary ways and means of scaling the operating system for new areas.