20 Aug 2018
First Russia Proprietary Mobile OS Tablets Set for Imminent Launch
Growing opportunity for supplying new generation of Sailfish OS digital devices opens up for Hong Kong manufacturers.
Following earlier moves to launch smartphones using a proprietary Russian operating system, the technology is now set to be extended into the tablet market with the impending arrival of the T8. Scheduled to be available from early September, the tablet – manufactured by Inoi, a Moscow-based telecoms and software developer – uses the Sailfish operating system, Russia-acquired technology that is now the backbone of the digital devices used by governmental departments and state employees.
Although the tablets are again aimed at the corporate market, they will also be purchasable by everyday Russian consumers. Primarily distributed via www.bayon.ru – the Saint Petersburg-headquartered electronics and household appliances e-commerce portal – the tablets will also go on sale through a number of high street outlets, including M-Video, the country's largest consumer electronics chain.
In terms of price, although no formal announcement has been made, the T8 is expected to retail close to the upper end of the cost spectrum of M-Video's current range of tablets. This would put its price tag at about US$400, with the country's more bargain-basement tablets currently going for some $160. This pricing is expected to be in line with the relatively high unit costs associated with the same company's Sailfish smartphones, with its R7 model on offer for $180, as opposed to the country's entry-level smartphones that can be had for as little as $30.
The launch of the tablet is another vote of confidence in the Sailfish OS. Originally developed by Jolla, a Finnish mobile-technology company backed by the ESN Group, the massive Moscow-based energy conglomerate, the OS was ultimately endorsed by Russia's State Telecom Agency. With ESN itself acquired by Rostelecom, one of Russia's leading telecoms companies, earlier this year, the OS was then embraced by the country's authorities partly, at least, as it was seen as wholly free of any US involvement – a key asset given the suspicion demonstrated by both the US and Russia of any communications technology developed by the other party.
Given its government-endorsement, Rostelecom has been pushing the OS hard as the only Russian-owned mobile OS and the one favoured not only by the Russian government, but also by the country's law-enforcement agencies and the Post of Russia. It's a positioning that has played on three primary elements – patriotism, security from overseas interference and a design / construction particularly configured to withstand the rigours of the local Russian environment.
With the T8, Inoi will be looking to repeat the success of its R7 smartphone, which benefitted from a massive order for 15,000 units (at a cost of some $3 million) from the Post of Russia, with similar sized orders believed to have been placed by both Russia's Ministry of Defence and its Interior Affairs Ministry. The knock-on benefit from these sizable state-backed orders is that it has spurred the development of bespoke Sailfish applications – particularly in the financial-services sector – which is something of a must, given that the architecture is incompatible with all existing Android or iOS applications.
Apart from the local implications, the increased ubiquity of the Sailfish OS could open up considerable opportunities for Hong Kong-based high-tech manufacturers, distributors and developers. As few of the global smartphone / tablet players are likely to offer Sailfish-ready models, it will inevitably fall to Southeast Asian manufacturers to try to meet the growing demand.
That demand, of course, will surge once the OS becomes more widely adopted by the Collective Security Treaty Organisations' (CSTO) member nations (Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with Afghanistan and Syria as non-member observer states). As is the case with NATO, the CSTO's western counterpart, there will be a growing push for all member states to share common operating platforms, with Sailfish the inevitable choice almost by default. Given that few of these nations have the requisite high-tech electronic manufacturing capabilities, it will, again, be Southeast Asia that fills the gap.
Leonid Orlov, Moscow Consultant