Four years ago, Stephen Elop, Nokia’s then-CEO, described the company as a man at the edge of a burning platform. While its rivals had set the phone market on fire, Nokia hadpoured gasoline on its own platform by failing to acknowledge that newcomers Apple and Google had changed the game.
In hindsight, the “burning platform” memo can be seen as the prelude to the 2013 disposal of its once dominant mobile handset business to Microsoft in what many Finns considered a fire sale. The operation that made the candy-bar phone as ubiquitous as the smooth black slate of the iPhone is today was no more.
So it is surprising that Nokia is quietly plotting a return to the consumer mobile market.
As early as next year, the company aims to rejoin the phone market, two sources briefed on Nokia’s plans told Re/code. In addition, the company has a number of other ambitious technology projects, including some in the virtual reality arena, these sources said.
The move is driven by Nokia Technologies — the smallest of the three businesses that remained after the Microsoft deal, alongside its mapping and network equipment businesses. Nokia Technologies is best known for being the arm that licenses the company’s massive portfolio of more than 10,000 patents.
Unlike other patent houses that do little more than license intellectual property, Nokia Technologies has designed new products and licensed them to other companies. So far, these ambitions have been small in scale. The division has released just two products: An Android program called Zlauncher and the N1, an Android tablet design licensed to another manufacturer that is selling it under the Nokia name in China. Its return to the market is likely to employ a similar tactic.