Jolla Partners To Build Secure Version Of Its Sailfish Mobile OS

Another security-focused development in the European mobile space: Finnish mobile startup Jolla, which develops the Sailfish mobile OS and its own brand mobile hardware, has just announced it will be partnering to create a “security hardened” version of the platform, called Sailfish Secure.

Jolla says it will be working with Finland’s SSH Communications to offer another version of its platform with stronger security credentials. The partnership was announced today at Jolla’s press conference in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress trade show. SSH will be providing comms encryption and key management to Sailfish Secure.

A spokesman for Jolla told TechCrunch the timeframe for a launch of Sailfish Secure will depend on “end-customer needs”, but he added that “the aim” is to have it ready to go “during 2016”.

Jolla added:

The Sailfish Secure approach will allow solution concept adaptation to e.g. local needs, and also collaboration with other security partners. End customers like governments or large corporations are able to adapt the solution to their preferred hardware platform, i.e. the solution is not tied to a specific hardware configuration.

Jolla is not the only mobile startup eyeing security. The move follows the launch last year of a security-hardened Android device, called Blackphone, made by Silent Circle and Geeksphone — a joint venture based out of Switzerland.

The sequel to the original Blackphone has also just been announced at MWC today. Last week Silent Circle revealed it had taken in a new $50 million funding round and bought out its JV partner — setting out a partial pivot to focus more fully on the enterprise space. It’s raised $80 million since last May to scale up Blackphone.

Jolla is evidently seeing similar opportunities here, with security and privacy rising up corporate and consumer agendas in the wake of multiple digital security scandals — whether it’s overreaching government surveillance programs, malicious hacking of corporate IT systems or high profile online security vulnerabilities.

“Customers for the solution can include government officials, and corporations needing a secure mobile solution. The aim is also to make the solution affordable for consumers,” Jolla said in its press release about Sailfish Secure.

On the government side, the Russian Federation, ever wary of U.S. spying, recently gave a public show of support to alternative mobile platforms  — singling out Sailfish for praise (along with Tizen) for not being made in the U.S. and for being open source.

(NB: Although Sailfish is built on the open source Mer project, which is an extension of MeeGo, so consists of a number of open source components, the Sailfish UI remains proprietary — so it’s not fully open sourced at this point.)

Jolla is keen to play up this ‘made in Europe’ differentiating factor — as a way to pluck a string that Google’s Android can’t.

Its press release notes:

The Sailfish Secure project is based on the premise that currently there are no European
alternatives for secure mobile communication to Android or other US based operating systems. This gives Jolla and Sailfish OS a unique position to enter the market and create an alternative solution to Android.

“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,” added Antti Saarnio, co-founder and chairman of the board of Jolla in a statement.

Jolla’s calls for partners extends to its Sailfish OS Alliance — with a broad invitation today for “OEMs, ODMs, and leading internet, eCommerce, and content players” to join and support its platform, and a direct appeal for regional players to help “co-develop” a European mobile OS alternative:

By joining the alliance, partners will get a privileged license to Sailfish OS to build an own unique mobile offering, and to take full advantage of the flexibility and versatile features of Sailfish OS. Jolla also invites regional internet leaders from Russia, India, China and Japan to co-develop a strong local mobile ecosystem and to create a true, independent and competitive alternative to Android.

Also today, Jolla noted that the next version of its mainline Sailfish OS, Sailfish 2.0 — which includes support for tablet form factors — is now available for OEMs to license. And it says it is working with Intel to add support for its AtomTM x3 CPUs.

Jolla has been crowdfunding its own brand tablet. It said the Jolla Tablet is expected to arrive in the market in the second quarter of this year.