They say there are two sides to every coin, and that holds true for the story of the history leading up to Jolla and it's Sailfish OS. The Jolla story usually starts out with Nokia, but it's really a convergence with Nokia as the center point.
This side of the story starts in Norway, not Finland. Oslo, in fact. Not with Nokia, but with a small company named Trolltech.
I won't start at the very beginning but skip to the part where I join in and include a bit about myself. It was 2001, I was writing a Qt based app called Gutenbrowser. I got an email from A. Kozak at Trolltech, makers of Qt. Saying that Sharp was planning to release a new PDA based on Qt, and wouldn't it be cool if Gutenbrowser would be ported to it? I replied, yes, but as I have no device it might be difficult. He replied back with a name/email of a guy that might be able to help. Sharp was putting on a Developer Symposium where they were going to announce the Zaurus and hand out devices to developers. I jumped at the chance.
It was in California. At that time I was in Colorado. Jason Perlow was working for Sharp at that time, and said he had an extra invite to the Developer symposium. WooHoo! The Zaurus was going to run a Qt based interface originally named QPE, later named Qtopia (and even later renamed Qt Extended). The sdk was released, so I downloaded it and started porting even before I had a device to test it on.
Qtopia was open source, and it was available for developers to tinker with, and put on other devices. There was a community project based on the open source Qtopia called Opie that I became involved with. That turned into me getting a job with Trolltech in Australia, where Qtopia was being developed, as the Qtopia Community Liaison, which luckily later somehow turned into a developer job.
Around the time that Nokia came out with the Maemo tablets, I was putting Qtopia on them. N770, N800, N810, and N900 all got the Qt/Qtopia treatment. (Not to mention the OpenMoko phones I did as well).
Then I was told to flash a Qtopia on an N810 because some Trolls were meeting with Nokia. That became two or three images I had to flash over the coarse of a few weeks. I knew something was up.
Around this time, one of the Brisbane developers (A. Kennedy, I'm looking at you!) had a Creative Friday project to make a dynamic user interface framework using xml. (Creative Friday was something Trolltech did that allowed developers to spend every Friday (unless impending doom of bug fixes/release) of their time on research projects) It was really quite fluid and there was a "prototype" interface running on that N810 as well. It only took a few lines of non c++ code to get dynamic UI's. This would have turned into what the next generation of Qtopia's interface would be made with. It was (and still is) quite amazing.
Then came the news that Nokia was buying Trolltech! Holy cow! A HUGE company that makes zillions of phones wanted to buy little ol' Trolltech. But they already had a Linux based interface - Maemo that was based on Gtk toolkit, and not Qt. WTH!?
Everyone speculated they wanted Trolltech for Qtopia. Wrong. Nokia wanted Qt, and decided to ditch Qtopia. We had a wake for the Qtopia event loop to say our good riddance. All of us in Brissie worried about our jobs.
So our little Trolltech got assimilated into this huge behemoth phone company from Finland. Or was it that Trolltech took over Nokia...? Nokia had plans for Qt that would provide a common toolkit for their massively popular Symbian and new Linux based phones.
Meanwhile, that creative friday xml interface was still being worked on. It got canceled a few times and also revived a few. That eventually evolved into QML, and QtQuick.
Then came N9 and MeeGo, which was going to use this new fangled dynamic UI. MeeGo was also open source, and it's community version was called Mer and Nemo. Yes, there are parts of Qtopia in MeeGo.
The rest of the story is famous, or rather, infamous now. Nokia made redundant the people working on MeeGo. Later on, all of us Brisbane developers, QA and others were also made redundant. The rest of what I call the Trolltech entity got sold to Digia. The QA server room was packed up and shipped to Digia, who is doing a fantastic job of getting Qt Everywhere!
A few of those guys that were working on MeeGo got together and created a company called Jolla, and created a Linux based mobile OS based on Mer named Sailfish. Yes, there are a few Trolltech Trolls working for Jolla. and yes, there are parts of Qtopia in Sailfish.