Launching a new touch screen mobile operating system in the already crowded market is ambitious. It has been tried by big names like HP with dismal results. Even stalwarts like RIM and Microsoft are finding it hard to breaking Android’s and iOS’s strong hold on the market. So how can Jolla, the company that was formed to take over the development of the MeeGo operating system, succeed with its Sailfish OS?

Jolla is betting on China where there are still huge numbers of potential smartphone buyers. Apple hasn’t made as big as an impact in China as it has in the rest of the world and 90% of smartphones currently run Android. Jolla’s plan is to offer its open-source OS as a true alternative to Android.

The Sailfish Alliance was formed last November to unit handset manufacturers, chipset makers and network  operators to build the whole ecosystem need to make Sailfish succeed  Jolla now has a research and development center in Hon Kong which it is using to pull together its different partners and launch into the Chinese market.

According to Digital Strategy Consulting, Jolla won’t be aiming initially at the low-end of the market but rather the $500-$800 segment. This upper echelon could make enough money for the company to break even with sales of just 200,000 handsets. It is this start-up mentality and structure that means that Jolla could succeed where bigger companies have failed. Aiming for the top end of the market is a bold move, but it isn’t clear if it is the right one.

The danger is the Jolla could invest and innovate but then due to the open source nature of its OS and the culture in China of just copying and cloning, it could suffer and collapse as others make money from its efforts.

Also Sailfish isn’t the only Android alternative around. Samsung is involved in an open source, Linux based mobile operating system called Tizen, while Mozilla is pushing its Firefox OS. Recently the Chinese handset manufacturer ZTE revealed that it is is preparing to launch its Firefox OS powered smartphone in Europe before the end of 2013.

Are you tempted by an open-source alternative to Android? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Gary Sims
Gary has been a tech writer for over a decade and specializes in open source systems. He has a Bachelor's degree in Business Information Systems. He has many years of experience in system design and development as well as system administration, system security and networking protocols. He also knows several programming languages, as he was previously a software engineer for 10 years.