Jolla slowly dying !? The downfall of SailfishOS !?

This year was a proving ground for Jolla and its SailfishOS.
In this article I analyze the problems Jolla and SailfishOS faced and solutions they provide.

Did it succeed in restoring and getting the brand and Operating System out of the death valley ?


Sadly not really I think.
After the tablet desaster Jolla reacted in a good manner to bring the brand back into buisiness.
Refunds divided into two rates payed at the beginning and end of the year so it does not compromise the working operation of Jolla itself seem to be an adequate solution.
I think Jolla has no illusions here that earning back trust is something almost impossible for most of the people that tried to get a Jolla Tablet.
Burned once shame on you, burned twice shame on me.
Jolla tried its best to handle the situation and they did well so far.





But the struggle began after that. With Intex at the beginning of the year showcasing and renewing their commitment to sell their Intex Aqua Fish with SailfishOS
they failed to deliver that on time.
Ok not really a Jolla issue is it ? 
I don't think so. The first devices of Intex Aqua and also the newly announced community exclusive Jolla C phone show clearly where the problem lied and why Aqua Fish was delayed.
The softwate the new main asset of Jolla was simply not ready and in parts is still not ready on those devices.

What do I mean exactly ? 

Its simple. When the first Jolla C and Intex Aqua Fish devices shipped they shipped with a exlusive newer SailfishOS version.
A version not released or tested by an broader audience on existing devices.
Some really annoying bugs did not get fixed and are still present until this day. One major one is the camera bug making the crappy camera (but thats another topic) a pain to use as you need to restart the device after camera using otherwise you will get a focussing motor noise every few seconds. Besides that being very annoying if the device lies flat on a table or is carried in a pocket it also has the potential to damage the focussing motor of the lense itself. After two updates (roughly 2 months later) this bug is still not fixed.



The next thing is the catastrophical LTE experience for Jolla C users. Advertising its LTE Band 20 (800 Mhz) capability but not delivering it was a shock for some users.
It might be a software bug but still people complain that even after the first new releases (we had to wait for it more than a month it was not a quick fix or patch coming out one or two weeks after the devices were shipped) LTE with 800 Mhz is still not working or not working reliable. (for example only working on SIM slot 1 or 2)

On the Intex Aqua Fish side Jolla failed with its SailfishOS deliver support out of the box for Jio LTE Network one of the biggest LTE-only carriers of india.
To this day Jio users are not able to use their Intex Aqua Fish devices to call someone as VoLTE isn't supported.
Who is to blame here Jolla or Intex ?
It does not matter much for the users who are pissed at SailfishOS because they cannot use that feature. I expect high return rates for the Intex devices in India based on that fact but not on that fact alone. I know that there are many people who wanted to just try out something new that claimed to have Android support and the price point was attractive for the hardware it ships though many people might've tried it and did not like it user experience or Android support not working all the time.

Its clear for me that the halt of development last year (though claimed otherwise but its clear that after laying off half of the staff the development wasn't going anywhere) is a big factor that played a role here. Many of the key players of the developers might've not returned to Jolla and so the company had to start from anew basically.
The result is a lack of quality. Yeah quality. This lack just ends up in a bad reputation for Jolla or SailfishOS in general and makes it harder to sell other/new products with SailfishOS.

What about Fairphone ? 

Besides some vague hints at a Jolla press and community event not much. I doubt that Fairphone will ever get a license for SailfishOS and sell their Fairphones with SailfishOS directly.
What could be possible and is more plausible is maybe shipping a version with the SailfishOS Community Edition which does not require a license.
Though only if the bugs and quirks get fixed first that the current community version still has on this device.
Community Edition  would also mean no Android support out of the box for the device.
And why do I mention this Android support so often?
Simply because the app eco system did not develop much in this year. Just take a look at the new app section in the Jolla Store on your device and you will notice that for more than half a year nothing much changed in there. Maybe one or two android apps were added to the store.
Updates are for existing apps are rare aswell.
It is better on the Openrepos inofficial software source for Jolla packages. Though that also shows a different problem regarding the restrictions for software to get on the Jolla Store.
Some spam or scareware android apps also made it to the Jolla Store somehow and got removed a few months later. (I clearly remember showing off some games that were available in the Jolla Store but got removed either because they shipped malware or because they were illegal rips)
That somehow raises the question of security handling at Jolla but more on that topic in general later in this small article.

What about Turing Phone ?

Apparently they shipped or so they claim and some small reddit community sites indicate that there is a small user base.
However there is no real review of it which is strange as it is to date the strongest hardware SailfishOS every shipped on and you would expect that there exists at least someone that has such a phone to show it off.
With the utopic new announcement about new Turing Phones however no one can really take TRI the company behind the Turing Phone serious anymore.

The chimera of security

Jolla and SailfishOS have somehow the reputation of shipping a more secure system than the average Android phones or other Smartphone systems.
Though that is sadly not true at all !
Jolla does nothing, .... almost nothing in terms of security.
You can see that on the Together Jolla community site where people are beg for security updates for major security holes that are left unpatched sometimes even after several updates.
There are no security hotfix updates ever coming to SailfishOS outside the normal update scheme.
Security updates are handled just like every other update and ship with the almost monthly (more likely 2 monthly) new version updates. Just take a look at the dirty cow vulnerability which isn't patched until today.



The best way to see how Jolla handles security on SailfishOS is taking a look at the defaults they ship.
Take the browser engine for example. Version 38.x got shipped with the newest 2.0.4 release of SailfishOS. This means Firefox's esr gecko engine which stopped being supported in June 2016 got released in october 2016 with the new SailfishOS version.
It is clear that this can't be a a good strategy when it comes to security for SailfishOS when we have a browser engine that is unsupported for 5 months already.
What about the alternative QtWebkit browser engine. Honestly I don't want to even talk about it as it is old as heck. Believe me when I tell you Jolla did not touch that code since SailfishOS 1.x not even fixing clear bugs in the engine like html5 dropdown menus that are broken since the beginning. I can even proove that as I am the Webcat developer a third party webbrowser for SailfishOS based on this webkit engine. At some point I started compiling my own QtWebkit version with all the fixes but gave up on recompiling it everytime when a new SailfishOS version comes out. (I also begged in harbour many many times to update the engine already on every new Webcat upload but that did not change anything. Maybe I contacted them the wrong way. Maybe there is another way to do this that I am not aware)
The rest of the system in terms of security is a nightmare for security researches and a playground for hackers.
There is no sandboxing for native applications and no permission system besides the normal user permission system provided by the GNU/Linux base.
This means all native applications have the permission to read and change settings for other applications or secretly take snapshots with the camera or listen and record audio.
So basically you have the same security as you have on a normal GNU/Linux distribution on a PC.
This simply means that SailfishOS is not more secure than Android, iOS or even Tizen. Its the opposite. Its more vulnerable for scamware & malware when third party apps are installed or Jolla Store testers missed the malicious features and pushed an app to the store. (I wonder if they have even a testing routine for testing the binary only apps uploaded to harbour. I doubt it.)
What about other security features ?
There is no GPG support still for the system in the native chat or e-mail client.
There is no option to encrypt files and folders. There isn't even cryptfs or luks support in the kernel for those who think they can handle that via the terminal like on their linux boxes.
The backup software was more broken then working this year through the various SailfishOS versions.
Granted the newest version 2.0.4 apparently brings fingerprint support. Though not perfect yet (there is still a lockscreen with pin pad seen on unlocking with fingerprint) it is still something that can be regarded as security feature.
What about the cooperation with SSH and Sailfish Secure ? It is more than a year ago and nothing really came out of it. No update on it.
When it failed or it did not succeed or is still going on Jolla needs to report on it. Surely they must've done something in more than one year?
Even if they stopped working on stuff or the cooperation is canceled because of the financial issues last year Jolla should inform their users whats going on here.


The future of Jolla ?

Jolla failed to deliver this year in my opinion. The Jolla C device shipped this year was a present for a few Jolla and SailfishOS fans and it was an important one. The device is not bad regarding the price point.
However it did not bring the effect it should've. No new apps coming to the plattform. Jolla did not earn any significant money with the sale of Jolla C devices as they themselves said that many times.
The Intex Aqua Fix deal was made in the last year so Jolla did already get paid for this.
I am not sure how the TRI deal went and I doubt Jolla making any big money at all with licensing.
The big players that sell many devices are still missing.
Jolla is still far far away from the initial goal to claim 1 % market share. (sounds a very small amount though it is million of devices and enough for a small company to earn money with so an realistic goal)
With all that and assuming that even the announced russian SailfishOS devices aren't selling in the millions and don't add a significant payment for the license to Jolla the company still has to rely on investments and venture capital to survive for the next year.
I expect (if not already started) another financing round at the end of this year (2016) so Jolla can move on with SailfishOS in the next year.
Jolla itself is not financial self sustainable.

What does this mean for the future of SailfishOS ?



Will there be a future of SailfishOS ? 

In general I think and hope yes. In one form or another.
If Jolla itself does not make it it will be a lot harder for SailfishOS to survive however but the chances that it will (at least for a couple years) is high as the small community will carry on using and developing some apps for the OS itself with a great potential. Just like WebOS and Maemo who have still in parts active communities SailfishOS may survive and carry on but definitely in a completely other manner than it would with a company backing it.
So the for the OS to be successful depends almost solely on Jolla. If Jolla cannot carry on they need to make the OS completely free software on every part thats possible to rescue the chance for the OS to survive. (including not only application support but also updates to the system itself)
If not the chances of the OS to develop further on are very very slim.

Why all the negativity ?

The Jolla company is almost 6 years old already and even if you count from 2013 on as this was the year the first device with SailfishOS appeared it has been already 4 years and Jolla did not succeed in gaining any significant tension and getting near to the 1% marketing share targeted at the beginning. They failed almost in every aspect.
Their own hardware with the Jolla 1 and the The Other Half concept did not take off despite nowadays other smartphone companies offering the same or very similiar semi-modular smartphone concepts. The biggest fail was the try to enter the tablet market. That failed completely and there is no other company interested in licensing and shipping SailfishOS on a tablet besides the much more easier involment around it when compared to smartphones with all their carriers, LTE bands and other stuff to take care of.
Now starting with this year and Jolla concentrating all their work on SailfishOS we see some slight progress with one company really shipping devices with SailfishOS and another one claiming to (looking at you TRI). Some russian companies making announcements but not delivering yet.
All in all I cannot call it a success yet. The concentation on software is not a complete failure nor a complete win for the company at the moment.
And that is what is very dangerous for the company and such the OS itself. Investors won't invest forever in something that is not showing real progress in the right direction.
The progress this year was too little in my opinion.
If Jolla gets the financing for the next year they have maybe the last chance to improve to make real progress in the right direction.
Despite all that negative mood in this article I am a SailfishOS fan right from the beginning and I love the system.
I love messing around on a real GNU/Linux system. 
I love swiping around the system in a fluid and satisfying way. A feeling I never had on any other system besides maybe BlackBerry 10 OS that gets close to it. 
I love the community that largely doing their work because they also love the system and love the free and open source software way
I love browsing code for 90+% of all the native Jolla Apps and learn something new. 
I love the reliability of my Jolla C device besides feeling very lightweight and knowing about its ridiculous low price and garbage camera module
I love browsing the web and fast multitask between apps to take notes or chat with my friends. 
I love caldaving my appointments with SailfishOS and Owncloud and multiple devices
I love listening to podcasts and music on my Jolla C device
I even love developing for SailfishOS though sometimes it can be a really pain in the neck when some api features (like open file dialogs) are missing
I love using the terminal to ssh into my pcs or vice versa test applications, see debug output and becoming root to mess with my kernel (systemctl) settings
I love so many things about the SailfishOS though I also see the downsides I see the things where it fails and I also see the limits of what Jolla is able to provide. 
I still see large parts of the OS being closed and not worked on. 

Nevertheless I hope for the best but wanted to give a honest view on what I think about the future of Jolla and SailfishOS.
Only time will tell if this is the year were Jolla will die and if this is the year of the downfall of SailfishOS or if this year will be the starting point of something great to come in the next years for Jolla and SailfishOS.

6 Kommentare:

Nik hat gesagt…

I completely agree with you, and I also do hope that Jolla finally gets traction and achieves a sustainable business model. Because if not, we are left to Apple and Android for our phones. And this really is no great perspective. Just imagine the potential of a real linux phone. Do you remeber the N900? Jolla is the closest to this from all the currently developed phone-systems out there. So I hope very much that they make it.

Leszek Lesner hat gesagt…

Yeah I still remember the N900 the best smartphone of it time.
I still have one lying around here.

pagis hat gesagt…

For the last 10 years we manage to survive with Maemo, then MeeGo, now SFOS, I think we, as community, are robust! Fair article tho, I do share the same points, well done!

Anonym hat gesagt…

Strong comment and really clear look on Jolla & SFOS.
Hope they will go on better in 2017 and we'll see a real progress.

Anonym hat gesagt…

Great article, thx, I agree.
I love Sailfish OS so much I'd even pay for updates that benefit the OS, like some kind of community/crowd funding...

Anonym hat gesagt…

Hello

I do not agree by any means, such a negative attitude is only harmful.
Yes things coulkd have gone better but important is to not stop trying.
You should too ...