Jolla and SSH push Sailfish Secure as “European alternative” mobile OS

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.

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Jolla Tablet could get cellular connectivity as money pours in

Having hit the crowdfunding target it set for its new tablet in just two hours, the Finnish mobile upstart Jolla has, eight days later, achieved that goal three times over. With $1.3 million pledged, the campaign still has 13 days left though – so Jolla has revealed some stretch goals that its community suggested. If it hits $1.5 million, the Android-compatible Sailfish OS tablet will get MicroSDHC support, allowing it to take memory cards of up to 128GB in size. If it hits $1.75 million, it will gain the ability to view and run two apps simultaneously, split-screen-style. And if $2.5 million is pledged, it will gain 3.5G cellular connectivity. Jolla co-founder Marc Dillon said the company was “overwhelmed” by the response so far.

Jolla phones go on sale in Hong Kong, with India next in line

Finnish handset maker Jolla has begun offering its Sailfish OS-based smartphone in Hong Kong through the carrier 3. This is the first notable Asian channel for Jolla — when the merry band of ex-Nokians were first developing their Meego-derived platform, they were set to have a huge distribution deal through Chinese retailer D.Phone, but that didn’t pan out. Jolla handsets, which can run Android(s goog) as well as Sailfish apps, will also soon be on offer through Indian retailer Snapdeal. According to recent reports, Jolla is looking to hire former Nokia employees recently laid off by Microsoft(s msft), to support its international expansion.

Jolla announces a new batch of smartphones for European customers

The newly-launched Jolla smartphone, made by a crew of mostly ex-Nokia(s nok) employees, is now available for purchase by people in the EU, Norway and Switzerland through the firm’s new online shop. This will be the third batch of €399 ($546) Jolla handsets to go on sale, with the last one having been largely aimed at patriotic Finns. Jolla said on Thursday that already-ordered phones would be delivered in time for Christmas – there’s been a hold-up due to “some technical logistics issues” — while newly-ordered devices will ship from January.