Former Nokia engineers raise $258 million for MeeGo phones - could the same be possible with Open webOS? | webOS Nation
 
 

Former Nokia engineers raise $258 million for MeeGo phones - could the same be possible with Open webOS? 37

by Derek Kessler Wed, 03 Oct 2012 8:30 pm EDT

Former Nokia engineers raise $258 million for MeeGo phones - could the same be p

While fans of webOS might feel they've been slighted over the years, our anguish is a different beast than that of the MeeGo fan. If you're not familiar with MeeGo, or even aware of it, we wouldn't blame you. MeeGo was introduced in early 2010 by Nokia and Intel. It was the combination of Intel's Moblin development efforts and Nokia's Maemo, and it was supposed to represent the future for both companies. A year later, Microsoft and Nokia shacked up together, and where Microsoft's Windows Phone OS took the high- and middle-tiers of Nokia's smartphone strategy, Nokia's old workhorse Symbian retained the bottom tier. MeeGo was unceremoniously put out to pasture, with the too-far-in-development-to-kill Nokia N9 getting released later that year as the world's first and so far only MeeGo device.

Thing is, everybody we've talked to who has used an N9 rather liked MeeGo. It's a unique OS and very much gesture-oriented. But having been released on only one device with no fanfare and certainly not much in the way of carrier support, it never took off. But then, it also never got established in the minds of consumers and then yanked as webOS was, thus avoiding being termed a failure (as webOS is so often branded, in spite of the failure being one of patience, not product). Unlike webOS, however, MeeGo has been open source from the start.

Earlier this year, a group of former Nokia employees that had worked on MeeGo and the N9 formed a company called Jolla, with the express purpose of releasing a new phone running MeeGo. We've been cheering them on a bit, but in a smartphone landscape dominated by multi-billion-dollar companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung with big players like Microsoft willing to put down their own billions, we weren't ever really optimistic about the chance for little Jolla.

Well, apparently they've got something slick in the works, as this week Jolla announced that they've raised €200 million (US$258 million) towards producing their first MeeGo-running smartphone by the end of this year. In fact, the plan to unveil the as-of-yet unseen smartphone codenamed "Sailfish" in November. With the talent portion already secured, to go fast Jolla needed money. [see: Fast, good, or cheap - or why you can't build a smartphone]

Which led us to wonder… is this the sort of thing that could happen for webOS? There are several hundred former Palm employees floating around out there, with the unit's headcount having been reduced by around three quarters from a peak of around a thousand employees. There are even several high-level big-money big-thought types formerly involved with Palm out there, not committed to big ventures, including former Palm CEOs Jon Rubinstein, Ed Colligan, and Donna Dubinsky, along with Palm founder Jeff Hawkins, though they all seem to be more or less retired from the mobile space.

The biggest problem for trying to reconstitute a webOS company from the ashes of Palm is that a good majority of those hundreds of former Palm employees live in Silicon Valley. Unlike Finland, where if you leave Nokia there's not a multitude of other options for picking up designing hardware and software for mobile devices, Silicon Valley is lush with opportunity for a newly-unemployed smartphone engineer/designer/developer. Within ten miles of the former Palm campus in Sunnyvale one can find the headquarters for Apple, Google, Facebook, HP, Nvidia, Intel, and Yahoo, as well as major offices of Microsoft and Nokia (who scooped up several ex-Palm employees). If you leave Nokia in Finland, you're going to work on something other than smartphones. If you leave Palm in California, there are a dozen options within walking distance where you can still make smartphones.

That's not to say it wouldn't be impossible. Most of the former Palm employees we've talked to over the years still have a very warm place in their hears for webOS. Whether they'd be willing to give up their cushy new jobs as Apple and Google is another question.

And of course there's the question of if the reconstituted Palm could ever hope to raise a significant amount of cash to be able to make new hardware (since that's not what Gram is going to do). It's reported that one of the investors in Jolla is a network operator and another is a chipset builder. webOS, meanwhile, has left a bitter taste in the mouth of not one, not two, but three US carriers, plus a dozen more in Europe. We could debate the reasoning behind the introduction of that bitter taste for some time, but that's not the point of this article. But the fact remains that both the carriers and HP have done some serious bridge-burning, and some of those are the very same bridges a new webOS start-up formed by the 'old guard' would be wanting to cross.

As we're wont to do, there's a lot of negativity wound up in this article. We don't sugarcoat here - webOS is facing an uphill battle. But if a never-ran like MeeGo can attract a quarter million dollars in funding, what's to say a new Open webOS-based startup couldn't do the same (don't say Kickstarter)?

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37 Comments

I would pitch in! We need to get a proposal ready n take to HTC and have them make us (webOS) lovers a frwaking phone.

If you could maybe pitch in the first $50 Million, that might really get the ball rolling.

What? We are so much better, all we need is a good proposal writer.

Yeah, it could happen, but they should have started raising money for it 10 months ago. A pretty large number of people have already moved on. To see many of them come back after all this time would be a surprise...I wouldn't be surprised either if a fair number of them donated their cash to Jolla already, figuring that any hope of a new webOS device would be nixed by HP.

Of course I'd kick some cash in because I've stuck it out. I'm sure a webOS smartphone initiative could even churn out a fair number of phones with what they can raise. But with open webOS being what it can be, it might be kinda pointless. Sure, it would be easier for the average person to buy a phone with it preloaded, but getting it working right with carriers and supporting services and the like seems like it would be tough to make a lot of cash unless you could make a whole LOT of phones and monetize a bunch of services.

If you read the Wall Street Journal article --- the investment money came from chipset maker and component makers.

Couple with the fact that Jolla is still mum about whether it is ARM or Intel based --- most likely that they got their investment money from Intel.

MeeGo?! Come on! webOS is far more superior than WP, android and iOS! (Yes, I've owned HTCwin, Sansumg Galaxy and iPhone 3. webOS is just BETTER!) MeeGo is not competition! What webOS needs is Hardware where it would SHINE! Even though I loved Palm form factor and physical keyboard on my smart-phone, webOS look DEAD GORGEOUS on that Galaxy Nexus. Just imagine Open webOS on a SG III or SGNote II !!!
If they did (raised $ 250 mill), is because they were intelligent about it. They asked not users but companies that would be interested on introducing/differentiating them selves in the mobile industry. HTC, LG, Facebook, could be. I say, go to one -or two- of the many chinese companies that are trowing hardware at discretion, with some of them being quite good hardware. With features like gesture area and such webOS' specific. And of course, with a good plan/proposition to deal with them. webOS is a -somewhat- mature mobile OS, with -not too much, but- enough user base to introduce their products to (lot more than what they sell now). Nonetheless, if Open webOS developers want to be on top of the Hardware also, I suggest pre-selling their webOS smart-phone to users to its potential price. So lets say there are 100,000 webOS users, wanting to get new webOS smart-phone (for what I read at webOS Nation, there are about half a million users, so we can hope for half of them to join the kick-starter Open webOS devices project) and it is offered at... lets say... $ 300 (Pre3 cost around that now on ebay). If those 100,000 webOS lovers buy the new webOS smart-phone, that would be $ 300,000,000.00 ($ 750,000,000.00 if we get half of webOS Nation users on the boat) raised just there plus possible companies interested when looking at the numbers!
This is my humble opinion, always provided of your better thoughts.
P.S.: I would happily get in the kick-starter project to bring not just an Open webOS smart phone, but Pad as well (something like the new HP Elite Pad would be great!).

That's 258 million down the drain. That's if they are even able to collect that money in the first place.

They already got that money... so we can say they are much ahead of a new webOS phone...

While this would be awesome to see happen, I'm betting on the more guerilla warfare method of hijacking hardware being more effective first. Then will come the low-end generic tablets that currently run random Android flavors right now. I'm working on my knowledge of SoC's , I've been learning ARM architecture via an operating system project in Assembly language, switching it up to C. Most people get a cheap tablet for kids, parents, spare when they drop their premium one in the swimming pool. If WebOS is there, it will eventually win. Might as well start writing firmware drivers, the project is going to need it.

I don't understand why all the hardware makers are backing away from gesture based OSs and phones.
My Plam Pre is starting to show it's age and I'm having problems with the volume rockers haha, but don't want to get anything because I'm too used to WebOS and I just love gestures and can't imagine myself using a phone with a home button or 3 capacitive buttons.

been thinking of getting a Pre 3 off Ebay but $350 is a little too much, I actually tried to convince a Palm Pre 3 seller on Ebay to sell me 2 Pre 3s for $300 lol; he refused haha.

I think Nokia would've been the perfect company to buy Palm, but unfortunately the went with Microsoft and Winphone.

At this point considering my lovely Palm Pre is sadly withering away slowly after over 3 years of kinda heavy use, I think my next phone most likely is going to be the upcoming Nokia Lumia 920, the new Nokia phones just look great in every way and even Winphone 8 is looking pretty good better than anything on the market right now IMO.

As for kickstarting a new WebOS phone, I'm for it and really would love to get a new amazing WebOS phone, and would definitely donate at least $15 on my part, WebOS for me is just the definition of a smartphone OS and going to a non-gesture based phones is going to be a little painful I'm sure. The way WebOS does gestures is just perfect and so beautiful and elegant and simple and lovely and I can go on and on.

Been there, snow. The Pre3 is simply a thing of beauty!

The Pre 3 is simply, with its faults, the nicest phone I have ever used. Just the ability to delete emails with a wipe is a massive timesaver. My company BB 9810 is a roughly similar design concept but is much harder work to use.
However, the OS which looks most like what webOS was trying to do is Blackberry Ten. It is gesture based and has some clever ways of multitasking painlessly. The ability to slide the foreground application sideways to look at the inbox when a notification arrives is a simple but brilliant design feature which, annoyingly, is there in the Enyo library. The handling of live backgrounded applications looks rather better than in Windows 8.
Realistically I hope my Pre 3 (or backup Pre 2) last until BB come up with a decent slider. BB hardware has usually been pretty robust, if not the nicest to look at, and the Nokia hardware lacks a removable battery, which is one of those features that doesn't matter till you need it.

why don't we just all keep donating to webosinternals/webosports and let them tell us which hardware we should be looking forward to seeing webOS on? Those are the guys doing all the work right now!!!

Exactly!
But with my comment I want to encourage them to stand for the challenge and get it together them selves (as they've been doing). Who better to carry out the plan of Open webOS Hardware integration than webOS' communities! I would trust their judgement with my eyes closed!

For webOS, I just know 'Phoenix International Communications' is working on it. But I don't know their progress and plan.

You aren't comparing like with like PIC seems to be "some dudes" while the ex-nokia group are serious experienced professionals with a quarter of billion in funding...

"MeeGo was unceremoniously put out to pasture, with the too-far-in-development-to-kill Nokia N9 getting released later that year..."

Please, HP has taught us that there's no such thing as "too-far-in-development-to-kill". You can kill products that are completely through the developement cycle and within days of mass production. You can kill products that you've already announced and shipped to distributors. You can kill products days after launch in part of the world, and within days or weeks of launch in the US, with product already in retailer's hands which will have to be returned and dumped off to employees at a loss. You can even kill products you've already manufactured 100's of thousands of, and have had on the market for a mere 7 weeks, and have so many supplier contracts that you have to keep manufacturing the product even after you kill it and sell them all at a massive loss. HP can kill anything... why should Nokia be so much more rational?

Because Nokia DIDN'T have someone in charge who thought getting a super tanker of a business to change direction virtually instantly was possible.

So Open webOS with some funding could become the #6 mobile os behind iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry and now Meego.

How realistic is to expect tens of thousands of app developers to code apps for 6 different platforms? And don't mention Enyo as devs would have to rewrite their already written apps for it in order to take advantage of its cross-platform abilities.

And since Meego has good multi-tasking and gestures and seems to be faster, better designed and more mature than webOS (which anyone who has a TP can tell you still needs a lot of optimization) what exactly is the selling point of a failed, laggy tablet-only OS with a tiny number of apps (now that mojo apps are history)?

A few years from now Windows and iOS devices will probably dominate the western world, with Android surviving off low-end/developing world markets. I don't see any need for 6 different mobile OSes this late in the game and I don't think app developers or consumers do either. Atari ST, Amiga, NEXT and BeOS all had similar appeal, but Windows and Mac crushed them and eventually incorporated most of their innovations.

Tens of thousands of apps are not needed. What is needed is better browsers so that most of the apps which are just a bit of css will go away, and maybe a couple of hundred good quality applications (i.e. more capable than app(lets)) per platform. I have about thirty applications I use on a PC, and I am a developer. Most people need fewer.
I also like the bit of Microsoft advertising you slid in there, but I think it unlikely.

There seems to be room for 5 different mobile OSes:

Android - ad-funded, its biggest weakness
iOS - OK for middle class joe public whose actual needs are smaller than their pockets

An OS for people who use their phones a great deal for social stuff, travel a lot and take a lot of pictures, want good PC integration and who don't like ads - currently Windows/Nokia.
A pure business OS with excellent security, efficient keyboarding and integrated messaging - BB OS Ten?

A low cost OS for the emerging market in countries that get increasingly suspicious of both Google and Apple because of their US links, which means much of the Eastern world, possibly Brazil and Russia - could be Meego, but Russia is developing their own secure Android fork.

The best hope for webOS users is that its best features get built into either BB Os Ten or Meego.

Tell Facebook that apps aren't needed, they can explain their experiences trying to use HTML5. Browser-based websites that approach the quality of apps have been talked about for years and remain a pipe dream, and before long the market will have already shaken out all but 2-3 players.

I don't need thousands of apps but the three apps I use primarily are from smaller devs and are only available on iOS and Android and I'd never consider buying another device that didn't offer them. That's a large part of the reason that most consumers stick to Android and iOS.

Well there IS a need for 6 different operating systems. Its not about who dominates the market. Its about the consumer wanting CHOICE.

If they wanted OS choice they would be buying something besides iphones, ipads and android phones. They want a choice of apps.

Hopefully the hardware will be fully open for us to install whatever OS we choose (Meego, webOs or Android[yuk]). If they do this then I am 100% behind them.

The N9 is quite popular compared to webOS, did webOS have 2 million users pre-firesale?
The cool thing about Jolla, which Phoenix can never aim to achieve, is they have amazing talent with experience, I think some of their staff were even Nokia execs. They know their job, Jolla is a bunch of shady people, abusing the community and their volunteers. The Phoenix higher-ups are anonymous, and probably have never been involved in the community.

Another thing is that most people left Palm and webOS in a bad way and they've lost all their passion and steam. Most talen that have left probably won't be involved in webOS ever again because the nature of their leave, (imagine McNulty, Duarte, Chuq, or anyone else committing to webOS again). They've all given up on webOS.

And I have too, along with many others who can't just use webOS as their only device anymore. Just today I sold my Pre 3 for an N9.

We won't see this amount of dedication again: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3349/4573343963_d04d504a57_z.jpg
Picture by Lisa Brewster, who has also left.

There are few mistakes in the article. First, Nokia N9 is not running MeeGo, but Maemo 6 Harmattan with some MeeGo compatibility layers. Second, it is not the only device with this system from Nokia - there's a development device Nokia N950.
If it had MeeGo, again, it would not be the only device - there's at least one tablet ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WeTab ) and laptop ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenovo_IdeaPad_S100 ).
Now Jolla is based on Mer (open source successor of MeeGo), but is gonna have a brand new UI, so for a user it is basically a new OS.

While I'm quite optimistic Jolla can make it - they should announce a new device before the year's end - I don't think webOS will. Just compare work done by MeeGo (Maemo, Mer, Nemo) community and the webOS one. Plus, while webOS is in the risk of being abandoned, the community is throwing raffles for charity (it's good, I don't question that), instead of supporting developers.

Thanks for already posting what is basically my essence of thoughts - saves me the hassle of typing so much on this crappy TP virtual keyboard (N900 hw kb ftw)

"MeeGo is not competition!" - sure. As pointed out, it's more mature / complete and (among the foundations laid by its more.than-good-enough predecessors), can rely on it's _very_ dedicated user and dev base. We throw no raffles, or post articles for people not knowing how to use their relatively simple apps, or constantly lay blame on HP/Nokia; we _do_ instead. And so do Jolla and their employees.

If you want to know more about the disastrous Nokia history, read this

http://www.mobile-review.com/articles/2012/birulki-176-en.shtml

I suspect that is a very one sided article, and the author didn't have access to the (probably very expensive to obtain and highly secret) information available to the Nokia board. It is easy to be an armchair CEO.
Nokia's fundamental problem was that the US market in IT makes the weather, and with 2 large US companies against them, US protectionism would kick in. By partnering with Microsoft, possibly the least bad option, they have a Trojan horse to help them in the US market. And Microsoft will want them to survive as a separate company so that they can sell Windows Phone to other vendors.
You only have to look at the Apple/Samsung case to see how serious American protectionism can be - Samsung have asked for a retrial with a claim of evident juror bias.
Nokia is partnering with Microsoft to get a crack at the US market: Jolla is partnering with the Chinese to get a crack at the Chinese market.

Open webos needs to be on some phones first.
I remember when Android first came out, people thought it would fade away because of iOS'dominance. Look at how for it has come. Sure it has Google behind it, but they used to be just a search engine. HP makes hardware and they dropped the ball big time. People need to have easy access to webos and its not there yet.

It's likely that some of the investment from from the chipset manufacturer and the network is down to goodwill.

Could webOS do it? It's possible, I mean Qualcomm were interested in webOS enough at one point, if a way to monetize services from Gram/HP were validated then investment could be possible from that area too.

Networks? To interest networks, it would need specific networks approached in order to see if they'd be interested in an exclusive deal in their territories. A proof of concept device would be needed for this part, something I believe the Mer project has (no proof but it'd make sense).

What do we need? Right now, we need to support the Internals and Ports teams because these are the people who can provide proof of concept devices. Support them however you can. I recommend these guys because they have a history of providing evidence of claims, plus it's quite evident that they've had their hand in the release of Open webOS.

Beyond that it's about finding a direction to work from and use that to construct a business plan

"but in a smartphone landscape dominated by multi-billion-dollar [...] willing to put down their own billions, we weren't ever really optimistic about the chance for little Jolla"

Just because they have billions doesn't mean they know how to use them... and our best example is HP... as we all know the story I need to say no more from HP...

My point is that not because we currently have in the market multi-billion dollar companies there's no space for a small company...

all big companies start small... everything great has a small and sometimes quite begging...

so maybe Jolla is the next real contender, maybe PIC is.. nothing's written on stone in the tech industry...

Wouldn't that be sweet...
... can we somehow find a way to encourage Jeff, Jon, Ed and/or Donna?

Didn't he use an N9 to "hack a gibson" as it were in Tron: Legacy? I remember being the only one in the theater laughing at that though.

i was just looking at a demo model of a BBerry at BBuy. It had a vertical slider keyboard JUST like the Pre, in a similar small form factor vs. the fleet of touchscreens on display all around it. i was actually impressed. there was my one thumb-typing slider keyboard.

now i'm readin in a comment here that they're seeing gestures in BB software similar to webOS? do i really have to convert to crackberry???

NO. i will stay in denial a little longer. my 2nd Pre3 delivered today. yay! a $170 spare battery charger with battery, and a full supply of replacement parts! ha! but now i can use the 3 as my daily and not be quite as paranoid about damaging it.

it seems Apple has their customer base locked in with iTunes users and those who like to pay more just because they can. BB has theirs in corporate business accts. and Android was smart enough to go Open right away, so they've been entrenched into the discount market at the least. and, ICS and phones like the GS III will keep them not only a strong competitor for Ipoo but a total thorn in Winphone's side, if not a complete roundhouse to their nads. i don't know anyone with a WP; i've never seen one in person. HP has their work cut out for them if they think they're going to conjure a Win8 phone in 2 yrs that anyone will care about, unless it offers something amazing that no other phone is, will, or can...UNLESS - they plan to offer an even cheaper smart phone alternative that undermines Android! gasp!

*crickets*

...so this MEEGO thing; well it would have to be really cheap, or really impressive to make a niche in the industry, and become a profitable enterprise. but is that even their plan? or did they just decide to build themselves a phone 'cuz no one else would? maybe they dont plan to sell any to anyone other than themselves and the few people who seek them out. kinda like us Pre fanatics. Because, y'no i like the webOS, kids; but really, i like the phone too. i like the 'river rock' design. i like being able to keep it in my pocket and it's not a brick. i dont need a tv in my pocket. it's a PHONE. that's smart. make it so.

good luck to 'em. but i'll stick with webOS as long as there's a webOSInternals and ppl like them. i'm going to go tinker with my 10th Pre now. g'nite.

I'd love to see Open webOS find its space in the mobile world but i think it's running already pretty late in the race. I guess HP is actually planning an all different future for this os and not really on mobile devices such as smartphones. Open webOS is still building itself while at Jolla are almost ready to show off the first hardware while they are already building up an entire new ecosystem. MeeGo or its last coming successor Sailfish are already loved from a huge portion of the devs world because they are open since their day one and they own certain complete os features that Android is actually trying to reach.
Besides this, partners are fundamental in the mobile world, like Samsung has been for Google and the other way around. At Jolla they've understood this and are creating a Sailfish alliance along with their products. I believe they are partnering up with China Mobile as well as with oems like Huawei, ZTE, Alcatel, maybe Lenovo.. some of the chinese Samsung's wannabes, by the way. And many more i'm sure are coming to the party.
I believe that, in the rest of the world, players like Vodafone make a bet on this new platform, we might see a rapid grow of the Sailfish products to become most likely than others the third ecosystem many people are aiming for.

I dont see why not this sorda thing could not happen for webos its simply the best os