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I’ve got to hand it to Jolla – despite significant teething problems, the upstart Finnish mobile-maker has clung on, using crowdfunding campaigns and general community-mindedness to maintain interest around its alternative OS, Sailfish.
And now Jolla has done something really clever: at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it’s revealed a partnership with SSH Communications Security – the Finnish firm behind the widely used Secure Shell crypto protocol — to develop a “security-hardened” version of Sailfish OS for governments, businesses and privacy-conscious consumers.
Sailfish OS may be Android-compatible, but it isn’t an Android fork. This means the secure version, if it works out, will provide a real alternative to Silent Circle’s Android-based Blackphone, which targets a similar set of customers.
The positioning is none too subtle: Jolla’s Monday statement points out that Sailfish Secure would provide a “European alternative” to “Android or other U.S.-based operating systems.” Silent Circle is of course based in the U.S., as are Apple et al. Here’s what Jolla chairman Antti Saarnio said in that statement:
It is evident that the world needs a secure, transparent and open mobile solution alternative, which is not controlled by any country or major industry player. Together with leading security expert SSH Communications Security we are aiming to create an open European mobile solution running on Sailfish OS. We are also inviting other industry players to join the initiative.
Interestingly, Jolla and SSH say governments and large corporations will be able to “adapt” Sailfish Secure to different hardware configurations. Together with the Android compatibility of today’s Sailfish OS, that suggests it will be able to run on Android hardware, though I’ve asked Jolla for confirmation of that.
Jolla may be small fry, but it doesn’t have a lot of competition in the European mobile OS stakes. It’s smart for the company to capitalize on that, particularly given the mistrust many in the region have about U.S.-based technology, and given how EU politicians are desperate to find local players they can champion. Nasdaq-listed SSH is a serious player, too, so there’s credibility to this push.