The Engadget Interview: Jolla CEO Marc Dillon at MWC 2013

The Engadget Interview Jolla CEO Marc Dillon at MWC 2013

Jolla launched its Sailfish SDK at MWC 2013 and we got the chance to chat with CEO Marc Dillon about the company's history and find out how things have been coming along with Sailfish OS since our hands-on late last year. We also discussed the time frame for Jolla handsets (still on track for H2 2013) and what the Sailfish SDK brings to the table for developers today. You'll find a full transcript of the interview along with our video after the break.

Myriam Joire: Hi there! It's Myriam with Engadget and I'm here with Marc Dillon, the co-founder of Jolla at Mobile World Congress 2013. Hi Marc, how's it going?

Marc Dillon: Hi. Oh it's great. It's been a great conference.

MJ: Awesome. So big announcement this week for you guys with the SDK, right?.

MD: That's right, we launched the Sailfish SDK. It's at

MJ: Awesome. So listen, before we get talking about that, tell us a little bit about the history of where you guys came from. I know it that it kind of all more or less started with the MeeGo team at Nokia. Is that correct?

MD: Yeah, that's right. I was in San Diego at Nokia Product Creation Center in 2001 and had started working on different products, and in 2005 I saw where the future was going... It was this open operating system. And it's also Maemo, MeeGo -- everybody hears about MeeGo now, but that was actually... N9 was the eighth product that we had released. N900 was one that was a really iconic product before that, and we had heard the whole time that having something different is really, really important. And it's even more critical today; there's like a couple of dominant players that are in the market. And when we started the initiative, we knew that there was a need for change and a need for innovation and a need for people to have a different choice, for consumers to be able to buy something a bit different and is offering them different options and offering a platform for innovation. So we really took that to heart, and we took the best people we could possibly get, and people that share a vision with us that are wonderful people to work with and the best talent in the world. So, We started this thing and we've been really well received everywhere we go. This conference, we're treated like rock stars here. And it's really a warm feeling to get so much attention for us just being ourselves and doing the best we can and making the best product that we can. So once again, this is the time in mobile to have innovation. This is the time for something new to happen. We're at a crossroads, and it's either 'we're not going anywhere,' which is the current state, or 'we have to take a new choice. I think we have a great choice with Jolla and Sailfish.

MJ: Alright, so Marc tell us a little bit about the SDK and what we can expect in term of timeline going forward with potentially a release of the OS.

MD: So we got a lot of feedback on the SDK. We ran it through some community members and got some feedback previously, and I believe because we took our time we were able to come out with something that's getting really good feedback... it's really well polished. We're offering a lot of power for application developers. The Qt framework makes it really easy to create powerful applications, or to take an application you have for a different platform and be able to port it with a UI that has the features of Sailfish. Like, we have this pulley menu that allows people to perform actions without looking at the device. They can just feel the things that they... the menu choices that they have, and it also doesn't take screen real estate. The ability to export multitasking to the home screen so that... Like you have music controls that are on the home screen of some devices, but it's not that easy for any application developer to use. So our multitasking interface does these kinds of things, and the ability to create these all with the ambience that we have on the Sailfish operating systems. SDK is out now. It's open for application development. And one final thing about that: we're getting feedback from guys that haven't written code for a while, and now they're saying, "Wow, I want to get back and write code." That's one of the warmest things that we can get.

Next steps: so everybody wants to know "When do you get the device? When do you get the device?" We don't want to release before it's ready. This is out debutante moment so it's always a delicate balance - when you launch, and when you start to sell. So we're still looking at second half of the year. People say, "Why isn't it summer?" It's like, well we realize summer is different in Scandinavia than it is in Asia, is it the 21st or 22nd of September? But the target's still to be in the Christmas market and to be in for Chinese New Year, and we're going to launch the device with enough time to be able to build the logistics and get the demand, and be able to sell the devices. And we're spearheading with this first Jolla device. So we want to show our capabilities and show that these guys can create a world-class and very unique and differentiating product, and we want to shake the market. So we've seen the same thing from the same two big players for a long time, and like when I got here there's a billboard that somebody's reinvented mobile with exactly the same operating system and user experience that everybody else has. So we're really here to shake things up, and we've gotten a lot of warm feedback from that.

MJ: That's fantastic. You are obviously are working closely with some Chinese manufacturers. I know you can't speak to that at this time, but are we looking at actually getting not just in the OS but getting devices by the end of the year then?

MD: Oh absolutely, absolutely. We're going to be selling devices second half of 2013.

MJ: I think you are primarily targeting China right now, is that correct?

MD: We're starting in Finland; you have to sell at home, and then we're moving into the China sales, and then we're going to be penetrating Europe. Also, we have an expansion plan for other tets. The most important thing is to get a wonderful product out, and then we'll sell it.

MJ: Make it delightful, polish it and even if it's not fully featured but it's simple, easy, and people love it, then go from there right?

MD: What you have works as best as possible and as magically as possible.

MJ: So if you are a developer you can just go down to the Jolla website and get the SDK right?

MD: That's right,

MJ: And there is an emulator?

MD: Yes, there's an emulator so you can see how the applications work, and all of our UI features are available as UI components. Actually you can develop applications that have all these different UI components and different elements and use the power of the OS.

MJ: Great. Well listen, it's been great talking to you Marc and getting a overview at Mobile World Congress with Jolla and a bit of a history as well, so thanks for your time.

MD: And we love Engadget.

MJ: We love you guys too.

MD: Alright, thank you.

Landon Peck contributed to this report.