This story was originally published and last updated .
After launching one of the most hyped Android phones in recent years, Essential came to a sad end in the wake of the Andy Rubin controversy. The company still has a cult following and many are still using the Essential PH-1 despite the fact that it's no longer being supported. Those users will be excited to learn that a bunch of former employees are now part of a new company called OSOM Products, founded by Essential's head of R&D Jason Keats.
According to LinkedIn, OSOM has been up and running since February, although we don't know how far away they are from unveiling a tangible product. Their LinkedIn description says they are "building the next suite of craziness," whatever that could mean. Keats has been talking up the new company on Twitter for a few months now, and we know that quite of few of his recent hires are former Essential staffers — check out the tweet below:
OSOM is thrilled to announce that my former colleagues Wolfgang Muller, JB Theou, Nick Franco, Gary Anderson, Kevin Chen and Wilson Chan have all joined the team here to build something OSOM! So excited to have this team together with me on another insane adventure!
— Jason Keats (@OSOMKeats) June 17, 2020
Gary Anderson and Jean-Baptiste Théou are both software engineers and Nick Franco is a camera engineer. Kevin Chen is a commodity manager who takes on the role of director of NPI and supply chain, Wolfgang Muller is the new CMO at the new company. Wilson Chan was Essential's head of operations, and although we don't know his role at OSOM, it seems likely it'll be the same. That's a pretty solid core team, one that we might expect to use its expertise in building a smartphone, although that remains conjecture at this point. A very basic website for the company exists, but only with a form so you can sign up for updates.
We also know of one high profile hire who isn't a former Essential man, and it's probably the most important one. Andrew Zalasin has been installed as OSOM's CEO, which thankfully means that Andy Rubin isn't at the helm. That gives the tech startup half a chance of succeeding, so long it can shake any lingering association.
Keats has said the company is planning to bring in 20-30 new employees by the end of the year so it will be interesting to see how OSOM evolves. The team is apparently hard at work on a new vision, which is more than a little intriguing. When Essential was shut down, we knew it was close to launching a new phone called GEM with a bizarrely long/thin form factor plus we also got to see some prototype PH-2 and PH-3 devices. Perhaps OSOM will resurrect these products in some form, or maybe it'll do something completely new. Everything coming out of the team points to "crazy," "wild," or "innovative" hardware, but only time will tell.
More details about OSOM from the founder himself
Our own Artem Russakovski had a founder-to-founder chat with OSOM's Jason Keats which allows us to shed a little more light on the company and its plans. First and foremost, we can confirm that Andy Rubin will have no involvement whatsoever with OSOM Products — not as an employee, an investor, nor as an advisor. Keats began work on the startup late last year, but it wasn't formally founded until May this year and his first hires came in June. As of Monday next week, OSOM will have a total of 11 employees, eight of which used to be at Essential. We know there has been one funding round, but that's all — there's no information about individual investors or the size of the funds raised.
When asked about whether or not the OSOM team will be working primarily on hardware or software, Keats answered by saying that he thinks the best user experiences only come from a holistic approach encompassing both. That suggests we'll see a phone or other device from the company with its own spin on software, possibly (but not necessarily) built on top of Android. Keats is understandably remaining tight-lipped about plans at present, but he did say he would like to avoid some of the mistakes he saw at Essential, one of which was going to market before a product was fully ready. This philosophy alone gives us reason to be optimistic.
A more formal launch for the brand will happen over the next few months, but don't expect any product announcements until 2021 at the earliest. We're certainly eager to see what they can bring to the table.
- Robert Barber