Jolla’s open-source tablet might actually stay the course

Finnish firm’s Linux-based tablet looks like a tenable alternative to Apple iPads and Android devices.

Jolla tablet via IndieGoGo, Jolla

The Jolla Tablet, an open-source device that promises privacy, ease of use and comparable hardware to late-model Android tablets and iPads, has demolished its funding goals on IndieGoGo in just the first few days of its campaign.

The project page shows a little over $1.2 million raised as of noon on Monday – well over triple Jolla’s initial goal of $380,000.

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Jolla is a Finnish company started in 2011 by former Nokia employees who had worked on that company’s MeeGo operating system, but left when Nokia decided to use Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS on future devices. Jolla currently makes and sells a smartphone based on the same open-source Sailfish OS that powers the tablet, though that device is only available in parts of Europe and Asia. (The tablet is available in more places, including most of the English-speaking world.)

The tablet’s published specs do stack up reasonably well against most modern devices in its rough size class. While it’s not the most powerful small tablet out there by any means, it’s at least comparable to the Galaxy Tab S, Nokia N1 and iPad Mini 3. The two hardware question marks are the battery and the core processing hardware – 4300mAh is kind of thin for a device that has to power a 2048x1536-pixel screen, and a 1.8GHz processor, quad-core or no, could prove ponderous without a powerful GPU to partner it. (Jolla had not responded to requests for more details on the tablet’s chipset when this article initially ran.)

On the software side, the only obvious problem is the lack of a built-in app ecosystem, a la Apple and Google, though Jolla’s proposed solution sounds, superficially, like a good one – Sailfish OS has a built-in Android compatibility layer, allowing users to install Android apps on the device. That said, it doesn’t appear that the regular Google Play Store will be one of the available app markets, and while the product’s IndieGoGo page promises that Facebook, Twitter and the like will be available, it’s unclear whether that will be true of Google’s in-house Android apps like Gmail. (Again, Jolla has not responded to requests for comment on this matter as of the time of publication.)

The idea of crowd-funding an open-source mobile device hasn’t met with much success to date – the ambitious Ubuntu Edge, Canonical’s attempt to take the smartphone market by storm, never got close to reaching its outsized $32 million goal, in one of the more public failures of its kind. Canonical nevertheless drew well over $12 million in prospective donations – demonstrating that there’s no shortage of interest in Linux-powered mobile devices.

Jolla has taken pre-orders for more than 4,000 units so far, and expects the first batch of devices to ship in May 2015. Early pre-order discounts dropped the price as low as $189, but the current price for a tablet has since risen to $209. (Jolla says that, post-crowdfunding, the price will rise to $249.)

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