Google invests $22 million in kaiOS; will build versions of certain Google apps for the platform



It seems that failed mobile operating systems often get a second chance. Despite impressing many smartphone fanatics with its gesture based navigation, Nokia went one and done with MeeGo, which was offered on 2011's Nokia N9. While Nokia was looking for a more modern OS to replace Symbian, then-CEO Stephen Elop decided to go with Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and jettisoned MeeGo, which later evolved into Jolla's Sailfish OS.

Now, the mobile platform once known as Firefox OS is also getting a second chance. Mozilla dropped Firefox OS in May 2016, and a forked version has been created named kaiOS. This happens to be the operating system used by Nokia for its feature phones, such as the banana shaped Nokia 8110. Other manufacturers employing kaiOS include India's Reliance and China's TCL. Handsets produced by these partners can be considered "smart" feature phones that include apps, GPS, 4G LTE connectivity and Wi-Fi.  U.S. carriers supporting the OS include Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Today, KaiOS Technologies Inc. announced that Google has invested $22 million in the company during a Series A investment round. In addition, Google and KaiOS said that they would work together to create versions of popular Google apps like Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Search for kaiOS powered handsets. Google's apps would be developed using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript; they will be created specifically for the kaiOS web based platform. This could lead to greater sales globally for low priced feature phones that offer some smartphone functionality.

Already, Google Assistant has been loaded on the kaiOS powered Reliance JioPhone feature phone. While core features are available, some of the more advanced features are missing. You can check out the official demo of Google Assistant on the JioPhone by clicking on the video at the top of the article.

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6 Comments

1. AronWunarso

Posts: 242; Member since: Feb 21, 2016

Love to see another mobile OS.

2. GreenMan

Posts: 2697; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

So we have: 1. Full fledged Android. 2. Android Go. 3. And now... The KaiOS? Would love to see a nice, affordable QWERTY smart-ish phone with Email, push notifications and IM capabilities running this new OS. Oh well, G'Day!

4. ImperialDynamics

Posts: 84; Member since: Nov 30, 2012

strange decision from google

6. domfonusr

Posts: 1085; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

It's only $22 million... it's not like that is a huge investment. Perhaps Android Go is not 'lite' enough?

5. johnh3

Posts: 143; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

I suppose this is important in emerging markets. And probably not good news for Samsung/Tizen OS that trying to be a low end option in those countries. So Google are in a good position now. They don't realy had something for the cheapest phones. But now they cover that area to.

7. domfonusr

Posts: 1085; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

I do think Google is trying to cover a segment that is even more 'lite' than either Android Go or Tizen can be. Stick a Qualcomm Snapdragon 205 and 256 MB of RAM in it, and it will work just fine... that seems to be more like what they are going for with this "investment". Anybody will be able to have a phone with HTML5 and Java cross-compatibility running Google and web apps, with LTE connectivity, GPS, a basic camera, and WiFi, for less than $50.00. Android Go still requires a near-$100 phone in order to work, as evidenced by the Nokia 2. KaiOS will run on a phone that is half that price or less.

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