Sunday, 6 October 2013

Jolla: community and innovation

I write this open letter to the communities out there inspired by Misha and Lucien telling a bit of "behind the scenes" in Jolla.

About openness and communities.

I have been involved in Meego (named OSSO and Maemo before that) since 2005 when I moved to Finland and started working in Nokia. Few months after I started working in Nokia the 770 Internet Tablet was released and since then I have seen several other Linux based products being developed and released to the public (and some not released to the public). I loved the atmosphere and the learning I was able to do at Nokia. Most importantly I learned a bit more about open-source and community as a (mostly passive) member of

Openness is a very cool thing and Nokia was not bad at all in that respect. And I learned a lot about being open, open-source and related.

As Lucien points out very well Jolla is a company that has to do business and make money, like any other company in the world. Being open is not about telling all what we think and do exactly when we think and do that. Everything and right away. It would just be insane from any kind of perspective. It could disrupt all the innovation we are having, other companies might copy us, investors might not invest in the company anymore, customers and partners might feel betrayed and so on.

One clarification that I also have to make is that Jolla is not "using" open-source, Jolla is using AND contributing back. 75-80% of the code we use is upstream in Mer and Nemo and we make no forks (if and when we do it is a rare and extreme case).

Openness in Jolla is open communication between the inside and the outside of the company (what I am doing right now and what we try to do as much as we can), as being active part of a good open source project like Mer and Nemo.

If you think openness as "I need to know everything and right away" that is not being open to me. It is being stupid from business point of view. And even though you might see us as a set of crazy guys, no we are not stupid.

Yes we do listen and we do care about what you guys think and say and regardless what you think we change or try as much as we can to change plans based on the feedback you give us. And we respect you enough to answer you (on twitter or wherever else).

Being on internet is not our primary job, we all have at least a couple of other jobs inside the company. But we still do it for a very simple reason: we could not be here without you and your support.

That's why we care about communities that follow us. You are our customers, our research department and our feedback loop into real life.

In this business timing is essential. And also timing of revealing things is essential. Mer and Nemo as open source projects have these discussion in the open and Jolla sailors as part of these projects do participate in these discussions. And since 80% of what we do is Mer and Nemo, well we don't want to fork these projects and you can go there and see what we are doing there.

We are as transparent as we can be at any given time. And time is a precious variable here.

About what we are doing

We are not doing a "proof of concept" device. We are doing a real device that works. And we are doing that in 80 people.That means that yes we are a small company, I would say a tiny-miny company in this world, compare us to all the major phone manufacturers of the world. HTC has 16K employees. Nokia 97K. Sony 146K. LG 220K. Samsung 425K. We are 80 (no Ks here, just 80). And we are doing an OS and a phone (None of the company above is writing anymore their own OS, all of them use either Android or Windows.). EDIT: As pointed out in the comments Samsung is working on Tizen, just it hasn't released any phones based on it yet.

We are so tiny that our company is probably the size of the cleaning department in any of the companies mentioned above.

Still we are making a smartphone AND an OS that powers this smartphone.

This company named Jolla did not even exist on paper two years ago, yes we had ideas but we had no money, no employees and no name. No website, no mail addresses, no nothing. Still 2 years after a lot of people are talking about us and are waiting a phone made by these guys and girls in Jolla.

When this phone will be on the shelves, with its beautiful and priceless design, with it's crazy good UI, when you will boot it up and you will read Jolla on the screen and then the phone will connect to the network and you will be able to make your first phone call with it, that call, that boot logo, that will have the sweat and the blood of 80 guys (and some subcontractors) that have devoted the last two years of their lives for you to make that phone call (thank you Sailors!). They will have slept half of the time they should, spent half of the time they should have spent with their families and done way less exercise than they should have done, for you. And of course they will have done it for themselves. Because they believe in Jolla and they believe in Sailfish and in what it can be.

That is our love and our passion. You just can't touch it yet but we do love you guys. And when you will touch the device for the first time everything will be clear to your eyes. I won't have to say anything anymore. I will not have to explain. This device is a pure, pristine, crystal monument to the love we feel for you and for this software and hardware. And you will not care about the megapixels and the ppis, the megahertz and the megabytes.

Specwars and innovation

Have you realized that before three years ago nobody was talking about specs? Yes there was a bit about megapixels on cameras but I just can't remember all this fuss about specs.

The 1st gen iPhone did not have 3G (they made the 3G version for that). The iPhone 3GS (it was mid 2009) had an average camera, decent RAM, and average processor by that time. There were at least other 20 phones that had equal or better specs. Nobody talked about its specs though.

But Apple managed to do something that others did not manage to do. Have a beautiful UX on a beautiful design.

Pumping up the specs is easy, working on a beautiful user experience is the hard part. Putting that beautiful experience in a great industrial design so that SW and HW become a unique PRODUCT is not something that a lot of companies can do. And that's what we are focusing on at Jolla. Because we believe that is what matters and that is our differentiation. We don't have to differentiate with the specs. We can (and are) innovating on the UX by building a product that stands out already on the shelf.

Was talking to a friend the other day and he said he walked into Dixon's and imagined the Jolla placed there on the shelf. He said: "there would be nothing else to look at".

I haven't seen too much innovation recently, instead I heard a lot about who has it bigger and faster. It starts to get so flat and boring...

Thank you communities

Finally I want to thank you.

Thanks, keep being critic, keep us in line, push Jolla to do the best it can, don't buy the device if you don't want but keep talking with and about us. We are all human beings, we can make great things but we can make them only together. We can fail miserably as well, but only if we don't listen to the signals that the world is sending us.

We are Jolla. Together. Let's walk this road as good friends.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Finland: the garden of technology

(I am still surprised someone still reads this blog as my last update was almost a year ago... but it seems that some crazy guy still visits this... Thanks!)

Anyway back on the topic I had in mind, random thoughts about stuff and technology. If you don't know I am working as CTO of Jolla, a finnish based mobile phone company, and I had a lot of different discussions lately with startups here in Finland.

Just yesterday I realized what luck we have to be living and working here.

In a land were most of the people are shy and prefer to talk to you via IRC (I am one of those BTW even though I am not shy) and darkness and ice are there for several months a year you might think that living here is just boring and totally not fun (well sometimes is not fun when it's -20C outside...). But if you happen to be in the technology field, jeez, this is Colorado in the age of gold mining.

The talent is tremendous and when you hear a pitch it might sound and look flat, but that's just due to the Finnish accent of the guys that are presenting. If you look at the contents you understand the amount of top notch talents that are available in Finland.

Why now?

So where the heck was all this talent all these years?

I believe most of them were working in Nokia and now with the fallout happened after year 2011 all these ideas were liberated, all these top notch talents had to actually find a job and Nokia helped them not to find a job but to create new ones (kudos to Nokia for that!).

So 2013 is the year when Finland has become the Silicon Valley of Europe, the Ice Valley of technology.

Why does it work?

The scholastic system of Finland. It's not about the PISA rankings guys, it's about the fact that everybody is the same and receives the same education. There are geniuses but all the rest is good as well. So if there is a lack of geniuses well the system still works.

Collaboration. Finland gets it right, is not by going solo that you will become the best, you have to collaborate and share the ideas, only in a place where ideas can grow and flourish the collective intelligence will lead to common success. If you have a beautiful flower and this flower lives in the desert with no possibility to get water... the flower will die.

Ideas in Finland are watered every second, people talk, share ideas, collaborate (by the way Linux was born in Finland in a cottage) and the whole nation grows.

What does not work?

Money. We have been running around and talked to so many people to get some money to start Jolla (eventually we managed) and in Finland unfortunately there is not yet enough access to money for startups. Entrepreneurship is getting better but everyone's willingness to take risks is still quite low and definitely lower than Silicon Valley. It's getting better but still it can improve.

Any big guy there listening? Finland is the place for innovation in 2013 (and gaming industry is supercool here with SuperCell and Rovio among others) put some more water (money) into the system and this place will become the best garden for technology in the world. Please ;)