Sailfish Operating System and Russia’s Desire for Independence from US Technology

Nikolai Nikiforov, Russia’s Minister for Communications, recently announced plans to launch a new mobile operating system across all the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) that will challenge the dominance of the US developed Android and iOS. The Russian minister met with Finish developer Jolla to talk about creating a new mobile operating system based on Jolla’s open-source Sailfish OS. His long term ambitions include expanding Sailfish into an entirely international effort. The minister would like employees from IT companies in the BRICS nation to give 20% of their time to work on pan-BRICS initiatives like the new operating system.

Nikiforov told Russian newspaper RBC that across the next decade, he would like the use of non-Russian mobile operating systems to fall to only 50% of market share. According to Gartner analysts, Android currently makes up 81% of Russia’s OS market share and iOS holds 15%.  Saltfish OS currently holds only 0.5% of the market, below Blackberry and Windows Mobile. However, combine its lack of ties with the US with its open-source operating system that allows anyone to use it as the foundation of their own software, and Saltfish look likely to prove a strong nominee for a future Russian open system.

Saltfish was founded around a central group of ex-Nokia employees who moved away from Nokia after it gave up on MeeGo operating system in favor of working only with Microsoft on smartphones. MeeGo’s core components were open source and Jolla built Saltfish around it.

Separately, Russian companies have already started to ship their homegrown replacements to overseas technology products. MCST, a Russian processor company, recently shipped the Elbrus-4C computer. It contains a feature called “x86 emulation” which allows it to run software written for the hardware found in most western computers which contain processers manufactured by companies like Intel and AMD. The Elbrus computers are capable of translating software written for the more ubiquitous x86 hardware, in real time, meaning it can run software such as Microsoft’s Windows operating system. The company is also selling a computer which comes with open-source operating system Linux, also known as Elbrus.

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