The company behind the Linux-based Sailfish OS for mobile devices has been plugging away for ten years, and now it’s finally turned a profit.
Jolla was founded by a group of former Nokia employees who wanted to continue developing the Linux-based MeeGo operating system for smartphones even after Nokia shifted its focus to Windows phones (and eventually sold its smartphone business to Microsoft). A decade later, TechCrunch reports Jolla has reached a “turning point” and become profitable: revenues were 53% higher in 2020 than they were in 2019.
When Jolla first entered the public eye, it was with the promise of not only keeping MeeGo alive, but of also releasing smartphones powered by the operating system. And the company did release a couple of phones, as well as a single crowdfunded tablet… but after running into funding and manufacturing trouble, Jolla discontinued the tablet after shipping a limited number of devices and eventually stopped making its own hardware.
Now Jolla’s revenue comes largely from licensing its software to other companies and to a smaller degree, selling licenses to its Sailfish X operating system to end users that want to install it on supported devices (including a handful of Sony Xperia phones and the Gemini PDA).
Sailfish OS grew out of MeeGo, and it’s a Linux-based mobile operating system with a proprietary user interface. You can try it out for free supported devices (there are also builds for other devices like the PinePhone), or you can pay for Sailfish X license.
Sailfish X is basically the commercial version of Sailfish OS, with Jolla providing software updates, customer support, and features including support for Microsoft Exchange, predictive text input, and the ability to run some Android apps on Linux phones.
TechCrunch notes that one of Jolla’s latest sources of revenue comes from that last feature – the company is licensing a feature called “AppSupport for Linux Platforms” that allows customers to license the app support without paying for a full Sailfish OS license. That way they can bring support for Android apps to embedded Linux platforms like in-vehicle entertainment systems without using Google’s Android Auto.
Jolla also licenses Sailfish OS to businesses and governments interested in alternatives to Android and iOS that can be customized and shaped to their own needs without sharing data with Google or Apple.