On November 19th former employees of Nokia launched a new Indiegogo campaign for the Jolla tablet, the world’s first crowdsourced tablet that is meant to take on the iPad and a host of Android tablets that have flooded the tablet market in recent years. The most interesting aspect about the Jolla is that it’s not just another Android clone, it runs the Sailfish OS and it’s also packed with specs that put most current tablets to shame. Then there’s the fact that Jolla is promising that their backers will get to actively suggest ideas for features for the tablet and the ideas that are up-voted the most by the community will get a shot at making it into the final shipping project. This, combined with the fact that Jolla has already raised over $1 million USD in just two days, makes us wonder if the Jolla can succeed in areas the iPad and Android tablets have failed.
Specs and Price
If judged by nothing more than its specs, the Jolla tablet is an impressive piece of hardware. It’s got a 7.9-inch screen with a 2048 x 1563 resolution at 330 ppi, which puts it in direct competition with the iPad mini 3. It’s powered by a 64-bit 1.8GHz Quad-Core Intel processor and comes with 2GB of RAM. 32GB of storage is built in with an SD card slot for more expansion. Wi-Fi connectivity, a 2MP front camera, and a 5MP rear camera round out the main specs.
Just based on the specs above the Jolla can more than compete with the latest iPad mini and also Android tablets like the Nexus 9. However, what’s so amazing about this spec-for-spec comparison is that the Jolla tablet will cost only $199 USD. That’s compares to $399 for the iPad mini and the Nexus 9. Any tablet with compatible specs to the iPad mini 3 and Nexus 9, but at 50% off their cost is pretty damn impressive.
The Sailfish OS
Of course the big difference between the Jolla and the iPad and Android tablets is the OS. Jolla is not another Android-based tablets (nor does it run iOS, obviously). Instead Jolla runs the Sailfish OS. Just what is Sailfish? It’s a Linux-based open-source operating system that is branched off from the MeeGo OS. And though you might never have heard of Sailfish, it’s actually existed for several years now and is currently installed on hundreds of thousands of smartphone in Europe, Asia, Russia, and India.
With the Jolla tablet, the company is now bringing the Sailfish smartphone OS to the tablet form factor. The purported benefits of Sailfish are greater customization and independence than even Android offers as well as, proponents claim, a truly unique UI that is more intuitive than Android and even iOS.
When the Sailfish OS 2.0 comes to the Jolla tablet, the company says it will have some completely new features, like Ambiences, which make personalising the OS extremely simple and Events, which shows all your messages, calendar events and other relevant information in one simple view.
Apps and Android Compatibility
Of course any tablet (or smartphone) is only as good as its apps. I personally think Windows Phone is a much better OS than Android, but the reason a Windows Phone is not my main smartphone is because it badly lacks the number and quality of apps Android and iOS offers.
While Sailfish offers Sailfish-only native apps it also supports Android compatibility, which means Android apps can be installed and run on the device just as they can on an Android tablet. This is a huge boon for the Jolla tablet and could very well be the reason it’s able to pick up adoption rather quickly. The company is also releasing an SDK so developers can release Sailfish-native apps, of which Jolla’s creators say there are currently “thousands.”
Multitasking--Jolla’s Killer Feature
But besides Sailfish 2.0 and Android app compatibility, the big killer feature of Jolla could be multitasking. When Jolla ships--and Sailfish 2.0 is complete--the company says it will fully support multitasking in a single-window view. That’s something iOS doesn’t support yet (though it’s rumored Apple is working on it).
Multitasking on a tablet is something everyone agrees is needed--the ability to see and work with multiple apps open on the screen at once is the one killer feature desktops still have over tablets. If Jolla can be the first to market with a good multitasking solution the Jolla tablet could quickly find appeal among the power-users crowd.
Can It Compete?
It’s important to state the Jolla is still being built, but from just the specs and software I would say, yes, the Jolla has a good chance of competing in the crowded iPad and Android tablet market--at least with geeks (as one, I say that affectionately).
Matter of fact, Jolla is playing up the geek factor by promising that anyone who supports the Jolla tablet on Indiegogo will be able to join a community where backers can suggest features, which can then be voted on by the community. The top-voted features then have a chance of making it into the final shipping tablet.
I think this is a great idea as it builds a loyal attentive following for the tablet, but I question how much a crowd-sourced “ideas” tablet will matter in the consumer marketplace in the end. After all tech geeks like me tend to want very niche things in their hardware and software which normal mom and pop users who just want a tablet to send email and browse the web most likely don’t care about.
It’s a nice gesture from Jolla and really lends itself to the open-source, crowdsourced community building mentality, but I doubt it will do anything to make the tablet a consumer success.
But how about you? Do you think Jolla’s community spirit will help the tablet in the long run--and are you planning on backing it? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!