A team of five former Apple software engineers, led by former Apple Exec Jean-Marie Hullot, have been working on a new stealth desktop/web photography focused startup called Fotonauts since late 2006. Sometime in the next couple of months, they’ll launch publicly. The company is based in Paris, France.
Hullot, who worked with Steve Jobs at Apple in the 1980′s, left with him to serve as CTO of NeXT Software. Hullot returned to Apple when it acquired NeXT in late 1996 for $400 million, and served as the CTO of the software devision, reporting to SVP Sina Tamaddon. He was a key part of the early thinking on the iPhone – a recent French television program actually says he came up with the idea in the first place.
Hullot and much of the Paris engineering office was let go from Apple in 2006 after Hullot reportedly lost an internal political battle over the direction of the iPhone. But under French law, laid off workers can receive 80% pay for up to 18 months after losing their jobs, directly from the government. Hullot kept five of his top engineers to work on fotonauts, while the French government paid their wages.
I don’t know much yet about the product, other than that it is photography related and includes both desktop software and a website component. A private beta should be available in the next month or two.