Wednesday 20 May 2015

Russia mobile operating system scenarios

Russian minister shows more interest towards Jolla's Sailfish OS

Russia is planning to develop its own mobile operating system, and it might be based on Finnish SailfishOS by Jolla. Nikolay Nikiforov, Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications, has shared news on this, here's our view into the situation:

Russia mobile operating system scenarios

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UPDATES, May 27, 2015 - Different claims from different sources

According to RBC, "Ministry of Communications wants to make a new product, rather than using the current version of Sailfish, the source told to RBC. The success of the operating system will depend on whether it is pleasant to end users and device manufacturers, he said."

According to The Verge, "Russia isn't building its own mobile operating system". They base their statement into an interview: "Jolla chairman Antti Saarnio tells The Verge that Russia is not building its own mobile operating system"

On the opposite, according to Jolla Users, "Sailfish OS to become Russia's official operating system for mobile". The post includes: "According to the RBC Newspaper, The Russian Ministry of Communications has decided that the country needs a national phone operating system which accordingly will be Jolla’s own Sailfish OS which has been built from scratch on the ashes of MeeGo after the death of the mentioned OS announced by Nokia as The Burning Platform."

All the three sources above claim different options, and we can't be sure if one is more reliable over others:
  • RBC is a Russian media focused on business articles, founded 2014. Their article includes names of the authors, but doesn't include the name of the source in the ministry
  • The Verge, founded 2011, is part of American VOX Media, covering technology, science, art, and culture in their magazine. Their article includes an interview of a key person, but the same person is responsible for selling operating system Sailfish OS
  • Jolla Users, founded in 2012, is a dedicated fan blog around Jolla. Swedish author has used a Finnish article as a source, originating to the same RBC source. Some mistakes might have happened due to first Russian, then Finnish, then English translation process
As there are opposite news, we should look forward for an official statement from both Russia and Jolla before making any final conclusions.

A deeper look into the situation, especially on what the Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications has said earlier, reveals that Russia is looking forward for supporting their own, national software developement in general.

They are trying to reduce the software import in the mobile platforms from 90% to 50% within the next 10 years, and they have discussed with Jolla about possible cooperation

It's suggested that we might see for example a YotaPhone running on Jolla's Sailfish OS, but this information is not confirmed by either Jolla, the Ministry, or YotaPhone. So far this is to be considered as a rumor, looking forward to share you more on this.

See also: [News] Jolla's Sailfish OS presented in Russia Expert Council meeting


Original article, May 20, 2015


Russia is heading out of duopoly of two American mobile operating systems currently ruling the markets worldwide: Android by Google and iOS by Apple. According to Nikolay Nikiforov, Russia is looking for independence in their mobile operating system industry.

Looking at the recent financial situation on which western countries are setting up all kind of barriers after what's seen happening in Ukraine, Russia might have a reason to be worried about any possible impact in their networking in the future. Most of their citizens and officials are using Android or iOS powered devices also in Russia.

An own mobile operating system might be supervised under the government of Russia, and they'd have a full control on it by themselves. Would it be open in the end, would there be user privacy, or any other decisions would lay on their own hands, leaving the western impact out of the question. Yes, this is a good reason to develop something like this.


A work group under Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications in Russia have listened to people from Jolla about Sailfish OS and from Samsung about Tizen. You can find a deep insight into this work in our earlier post.

Fresh and yet small startup company Jolla, from Finland, introduced their mobile device "Jolla" running on their own independent Sailfish OS mobile operating system. This first device running on the new operating system started in sales November 2013. Sailfish OS is partially open, based on OpenSource Mer project and Meego operating system seen on Nokia N9 and N900.

What operating system? 

On top of the open parts in Sailfish OS, Jolla has added their own user interface and some 3rd party services like for example support for running the majority of Android applications. This support is not 100%, for example the Play services are not officially supported. Users can install these by themselves, as Sailfish OS is a Linux system enabling a lot of hacking and tinkering.

Sailfish OS is developed both in its closed parts and open parts mostly by employees at Jolla. They are planning to introduce version 2.0 on July, on their second device Jolla Tablet. Also the phones can be updated to this version, and in general, Sailfish OS is planned to be a platform independent system.

The News

Moscow, May 15, 2015. — Nikolay Nikiforov, Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications, carried out working meeting with heads of Sailfish Holding (Hong Kong, China). Among other things, Mr. Nikiforov shared:
“We think it’s necessary to develop alternatives to closed or closing mobile platforms based on open operating systems. We are ready to support such initiatives and we think that our partners from BRICS will also join us,” said Nikolay Nikiforov, “Sailfish is almost an international company today. It is owned not only by Finnish, but also by Russian and Chinese shareholders. We hope that strategic Indian, Brazilian and South African investors will also join Sailfish soon.” 

From China?

"Sailfish Holding" was mentioned as a Chinese company above. Yes, there are several companies providing different products. One Finnish, providing the Jolla devices, also mostly financed by investors in Asia. One Asian, providing the operating system, also having Finnish and Russian owners. In overall, most of the money originates to Asia, and we know that money talks. Then what's Finnish? The Design! Strongly!


1. Case licence

Sailfish OS can be licenced, and business partners can join the project via Sailfish Alliance founded by Jolla. Does Russia want this? No, possible licencing is not mentioned in any news, and  Russia is not looking for another operating system supervised by "outsiders"

2. Case fork

Sailfish OS is partially open. More than 80% of the code is licensed under different Open Source licences. This enables any government to start developing on it, and as a great example of what an operating system can offer to mobile devices, yes, this is a possible scenario. Russia might have their own version of Sailfish OS, both developed and supervised by them instead of Jolla

3. Case buy

Could Russia just buy a small startup company and have all their workers to do this all for them, added by some Russian developers to make it their own? Why not, but of cource this depends on many issues. First of all, is Salifish Holding for sale? Is Jolla for Sale? Well, at least more likely than Samsung ;)

Wise man said that everything has its price, so let's advance to the second stage: Do they have the money? Hmm, why do I even ask. If needed, the money is available. Then what?

If it was sold, what would be the reaction of the employees and customers? Well, Jolla has yet quite a small customer base in Europe and even less outside Europe. They also have a bunch of customers in China. They are expanding the customer base worldwide via the upcoming tablet, but the progress has been slow. The employees are from here and there, mostly working online, many of them working for Nokia (another Finnish company) earlier. In general, I guess employees are happy to work no matter where the money comes from. Currently they are paid mostly by the owners in China, later by Jolla's customers, possibly also Russian customers. Yes, you can buy a Jolla phone in Russia already s well.

4. Case closed

Some critics don't want to believe, or see as propaganda, anything published by the government in Russia. What if this is all just talk? Russia showing the world that they are not dependent on any western software, or at least prepared not to be. Actually, they are just planning for the possible future, getting ready for independence on this just when needed

Let's wrap it

The case is that it's not good to have only two (well, practically one) OS software providers in the mobilizing world. Let's not forget that we are not talking just about phones or tablets:

Operating systems are used in our cars, televisions, watches, home equipment, info boards and commercial screens all around the cities, banks, credit cards, wallets, etc and the amount of platforms is not getting smaller.

Both for Russia, and for any other party including indivisuals worldwide, it's great to have some options. Knowledge is power, and that's currently held by one American company called Google.

The greatest news

Well, Sailfish OS has just gained some great popularity in several newspapers and online magazines, thanks to Nikolay. The community smiles! Sail On!

Read also:

[News] Jolla's Sailfish OS presented in Russia Expert Council meeting

Share and Shout! Your friends might read it.

Source: minsvyaz
Sources for the news updates: RBC, The Verge, Jolla Users
Published: 2015-05-20 13:26 UTC
Updated: 2015-05-27 21:45 UTC


  1. Russia isn't building its own mobile operating system
    But it does want an alternative to Android and iOS

    1. Thanks for the comment Harri, I was actually expecting someone to share that. Verge has shared a great article, but it's lacking any possible other options. What other options do you see they might have, considering their goal for 2025 to reduce Android & iOS users to 50%? Is for example licencing of Sailfish OS on their table?