By Nina Mulamba
Despite the fact that Nokia has to wait until late 2016 for their deal with Microsoft to expire before they can consider re-entering the handset business, plans are still underway for a major comeback into the industry.
Nokia is hiring software experts, testing new products and seeking sales partners as it plots its return to the mobile phone and consumer tech arena, a return some have been waiting on since the tech company bowed out some years back.
The company launched an Android tablet called the N1 in China in January and unveiled a “virtual-reality camera” last week, heralding it as “the rebirth of Nokia”. The company has confirmed that some staff at its 600-strong technologies division, which has advertised dozens of jobs recently, is working on designs for new consumer products.
While re-entering the market will be tough, the company still retains one of the mobile industry’s biggest troves of intellectual property, including patents it retained after selling its handset business.
The €15.6 Billion acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, announced in April, will give it access to extra brainpower in the company’s famous Bell Labs, a U.S. research center whose scientists have won eight Nobel prizes.
Nokia hopes the partnerships will keep its growth in check so that they avoid what many considered a pitfall with the company; missing out on technological trends, being saddled with high costs and reacting too slowly with changing consumer tastes.
To keep the business lean and avoid slow reactions to new trends, as it was in the past, Company CEO Rajeev Suri says he will seek partners for “brand-licensing” deals where the Finnish firm will design new phones, bearing its brand, but will let other firms mass-manufacture, market and sell the devices in exchange for royalties.
Nokia generates the bulk of its income from selling telecommunications network equipment to operators like Vodafone and T-Mobile, but Gartner analyst Sylvain Fabre says the firm wants to keep a presence in the consumer market.
“They want to be innovative and seen as a company with long-term vision in the (tech) industry and having a foot in devices plays into this impression, even if it’s not bringing massive revenue at the outset,” he said.
“The brand will not help much if the product is similar to what is already being sold out there. But if there is something new and interesting to it, the old heritage may be helpful,” said former Nokia executive and a professor at Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology, Anssi Vanjoki.
Meanwhile its technologies division has advertised on LinkedIn dozens of jobs in California, many in product development, including Android engineers specializing in the operating software that Nokia mobile devices will use.