In a sunny and mild end-May afternoon I had the chance to meet, in Helsinki, Heikki Haveri, developer of Situations and partner, along with another former Nokia employee, Roope Tassberg, in the Pastilli Labs project.
In a pretty kahvila of the city’s center, along with a cup of coffee, we had a long and pleasant chat, talking about the expectations and the present (and a dig into the past, as well) of Jolla and Situations.
Tell us about Pastilli Labs: how did the project kick off? Who are the founders and the current team?
Pastilli Labs was founded by me and Roope when both of us left Nokia. In Nokia we had this project, Nokia Situations, originally meant to be part of some devices but it never happened, so it became an internal alpha and after a public beta on Beta Labs. Then we were transfered to Accenture and we asked the permission to take the idea and carry it on on our own. I’m the developer of the app, while Roope takes care of the business side, marketing, bureaucracy and so on.
The first version was built in Qt on the original Symbian app, then it was ported to MeeGo. With the release 2 I tried to run Situations on as many platforms as possible, so the Android and – later – the Sailfish versions came out.
What’s the idea behind Situations?
Originally it was built around context awareness. The idea is that you can program the phone automatically without you having to do stuff manually on it. There are many ways to approach that, but basically you can make the phone learn from what you do or set certain rules that it has to follow. At that time in Nokia there were projects who tried both of the approaches, but we chose the second one because I it’s easier to set up and more intuitive.
How did you run into Jolla and why did you choose to support Sailfish OS? Do you think Jolla will be the next big thing in the mobile world?
Well, as former N9 user, I was keen to know what it was going to happen, because I really liked the MeeGo UI and I still think that Nokia did a mistake in ditching MeeGo for Windows Phone. Furthermore, as a Finn I was naturally curious of this new Finnish company entering in the mobile world.
Surely they still have tough times ahead. Going mainstream is not easy at this point, but building a solid niche in the market would hopefully be a profitable way.
What are the main upsides of developing apps for Sailfish OS? What are the opportunities of developing for such a young platform?
I like Qt, I do think that they make the developing process easier. I also like the hackability of the OS and of course the community, which is helpful in those areas where the documentation is weaker.
The hugest opportunity for independent developers is visibility at start, which may turn to be in a more convenient position lately.
What do you appreciate of the developing process? Considering also the SDK, how is it compared to other platforms?
Compared to other platforms it’s easier to set up and start working. The SDK is based on Qt Creator and I like the way the emulator works – it’s an interestingly and surprisingly good implementation.
Whom would you advice to develop for Sailfish OS?
Of course a Linux background helps you. I would advice Sailfish to those who are familiar with Qt and QML.
The Silica documentation is at a good level, but if you’re looking for some deeper hacking it may be more difficult.
As a developer, which improvements would you make to the platform?
I would like to see support for commercial apps and a freemium model with IAPs, as well as more APIs accepted on the Harbour. For an app as Situations some restrictions are quite tight, for example calendar support, autostart and background daemon are not allowed at the moment.
Also, as I said, documentation still lacks behind in some areas.
As a user, what do you expect from Jolla and Sailfish OS in the future?
Of course it would be nice to see more official apps. I would be also interested in seeing other manufacturers adopting Sailfish and how this would affect the development of the platform..
Jolla is about to market the new tablet. What do you think about it? Are you porting Situations for the new UI?
I haven’t had the chance to see the tablet live, but from the videos It looks good. I will update Situations if there is any incompatibility, but most likely it may have the same UI as the phone counterpart.
It may be not the best UI for that screen size, but after all the point with Situations is to use the UI as less as possible.
Jolla also showed Sailfish OS 2.0 at the last MWC15. What do you think about the new tune of the OS? Are you happy of the improvements in the UX?
I think they are going to the right direction. The first UI was maybe too simple, and from an N9 user point of view I’m glad to see the new improvements. Moreover, in Situations we already took some hints fro m the Sailfish UI.
Have you planned to port Situations to any other OS?
Maintaining the app for different platforms is a lot of work. I have no time, but if I can I will port it to Tizen, Ubuntu and any platform that is open enough – this of course rules out iOS and Windows Phone.
What are the features planned for Situations?
I’m taking all user request in account. I will refine and improve the existing features and conditions, and also timed situations may come at some point.
What is the future of Pastilli Labs? Do you have new projects in the pipeline?
Not really, currently we are focusing on Situations. As we are both busy in other things our time is limited, so no plans for other apps anytime soon.
And this is all. I would like to say thank you to Heikki for having kindly given his time for this interview and I wish him the best for his present and future projects. Sail on!