Android users will get to install Jolla’s rival Sailfish OS, bit by bit

Jolla’s Sailfish OS isn’t Android(s goog) – not even an Amazon(s amzn)-style fork – but it can run Android apps and manufacturers can put it on the same hardware they use for Android devices. So after a pretty small-scale start, what would be the smart way for the plucky Finnish mobile upstart to make sure as many people as possible play with its software?
Yup. On Friday, Jolla announced the first complete version of Sailfish OS and said users themselves would later this year be able to install it on many Android devices – according to the post-Nokia outfit, this will include “major versions of popular Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus, and Sony Xperia .” In the meantime, Jolla will soon put a Sailfish launcher into “common Android marketplaces”, so people can get their heads around the operating system’s gesture-based user interface.
All this will take place during the first half of this year, Jolla said, noting that the full Sailfish OS should be “commercially ready for global distribution” after the beginning of March, when Sailfish OS receives its fourth significant update.
The company also revealed partnerships with other big hitters from Finland: Rovio, for an Angry Birds-themed “The Other Half” smart cover, and security firm F-Secure, for free cloud storage. Jolla will also work with Finnish IT consultancy Tieto to offer integration services to manufacturers that want to make Sailfish OS phones.
According to Jolla COO and co-founder Marc Dillon:

“We’ve been working hard together with our user community to make the user experience of the Jolla smartphone and Sailfish OS effortless and distinct. We believe that Jolla now offers a truly viable option for all smartphone users. Naturally we are not stopping here, as we continue to provide monthly software updates to Jolla devices and Sailfish OS.”

Sailfish OS users will be able to install “their preferred Android app store”, Dillon added. Jolla has previously announced a partnership with Yandex to see the Russian web giant’s Android app store preinstalled on Jolla devices — as for the official Google Play Store, a Jolla spokesman told me that “technically it is possible to download it to the Jolla smartphone, but we don’t have any agreements in place currently with Google.” Sailfish OS is open source, and the community has already made native apps for Facebook(s fb), Twitter(s twtr), WhatsApp and Foursquare.
How likely is it that Android users will go Sailfish? Jolla is hopeful: chairman Antti Saarnio said in Friday’s statement that there are about a billion Android users out there. “Last year in China alone, about 100 million devices were re-flashed after the purchase with a new operating system. This approach allows Sailfish OS to scale into volume fast without limitations,” he noted.
“Just in a few months [since launch, presumably] we have shown how fast an open operating system can develop compared to closed ecosystems,” Saarnio continued. “It’s time for free choice instead of closed walled gardens.”
This article was updated at 3.30am PT to include extra detail about the possibility of using the Google Play Store on a Jolla phone.