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Snapdeal to promote Sailfish OS in India. Viability?

Snapdeal

E-commerce marketplace Snapdeal.com has partnered with the Finnish mobile company Jolla to join the Sailfish OS Alliance and promote the Sailfish OS in India. By being a part of this alliance, Snapdeal will get a ‘privileged license’ to Sailfish OS to build its own mobile offerings using the OS’s features.

With this partnership, it looks like Snapdeal will have an OS to put on its self-branded phones, if it indeed plans to do this. Note that competitor Flipkart currently offers Android-powered self-branded tablets under the brand name Digiflip, while Amazon also sells self-branded phones which use a heavily modified Android-system.

Such initiatives however, are not necessarily successful. The primary reason for e-commerce companies to offer self-branded tablets/phones lies in hoping to lock in consumers to its platform by offering a content ecosystem. Amazon tried this with its ‘Fire’ phones, but failed miserably. However, Flipkart continues to offer around 10 variants of its Digiflip tablet, which brings us straight to point two.

The ecosystem:

One of the biggest failures of Amazon’s Fire phones was the lack of Google Play. The phone was pre-installed with Amazon’s Appstore, which did not quite have the collection of apps the Play store does. Limiting the content to its own platform doomed Amazon’s project. On the other hand, Flipkart integrates the Play store with its tablets offering users a diversity of content, which brings us to the next point.

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Doomed from the start?

The Sailfish OS is rather new, and granted it is based on the Linux kernel which should theoretically allow any Linux based program to run by recompiling for it, not many apps are specifically made for the platform, or to take advantage of its touch screen interface. The platform does not have the advantage of using Play store apps either, as the full list of Android apps supported by it is less than 100. So what content can Snapdeal offer users if it does indeed launch phones based on Jolla’s OS? As of now the company only mentions it will ‘integrate local payment solutions, and the Snapdeal.com service.’

Snapdeal and Jolla have collaborated in the past as the e-commerce platform had made a deal to sell Jolla’s Sailfish OS-powered premium smartphones exclusively in India in July last year. The phone went on sale in October the same year, and is currently priced at Rs 15,999. If the current partnership involves just selling more phones, it still faces the same problem: the lack of an ecosystem.

Competition:

Note that there are other competitors vying for a slice of the Indian smartphone market, which is largely dominated by Android. ZTE Open, which runs the Firefox OS had also launched in India in October 2013, post which Spice had launched a Firefox OS powered smartphone in August last year. Similarly, Microsoft has also been trying to woo the Indian market with at least three moderately priced devices, and initiatives like bringing its digital assistant Cortana to its users in the country.

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