As Microsoft solidifies its rebranding of the Nokia mobile division heading into 2015, there is one rumor that just won't die: Nokia wants to make smartphones again.
Certainly there is nostalgia behind the iconic brand, something that current Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri clearly understands. However, there is just too much navel-gazing these days for 'clues' in Nokia's Facebook and Twitter posts that Nokia wants to make phones again. Luckily, Suri today made it clear that Nokia has no plans to return to smartphones.
Old news is not new news
During the original purchase announcement of the Nokia mobile division by Microsoft, it was made clear that Nokia as a company could not get back into smartphones until Q4 of 2016. After licensing out their smartphone patents and turning over all of their star employees to Microsoft, Nokia is now barren of nearly all of their mobile resources. That is after all, the point of the sale.
The problem is many people keep looking towards that 2016 date as some kind of jumping off point for Nokia. Would Nokia actually try to rebuild everything they just sold off to jump into an industry that nearly destroyed the company? If Microsoft is struggling in 2014 in the smartphone market, what chance would a nascent 'new' Nokia with no proprietary OS or engineering team have in the business?
Setting the record straight
Earlier today in a London analyst meeting Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri outlined Nokia's future business strategy. It includes Nokia's further development of its HERE Maps, Networks, and Technologies divisions, which have already returned the company to profitability.
For HERE Maps, Nokia is continuing to use Microsoft, Yahoo, and others as proxies for their mapping technology. Nokia HERE Maps will not take on Google directly but instead Nokia will utilize a B2B2C (business to business to consumer) policy.
Currently, Networks is Nokia's biggest play in the technology field where they still maintain many patents, including 4G and 5G technologies, which they will continue to license and develop.
Finally, the Technologies division is where consumer-facing products could return in late 2016. However, Suri noted that although Nokia may license out their brand in the future, they are not considering a return to direct consumer handsets. As noted in an excellent analysis by ZDNet's Jo Best:
"We are not looking to a direct consumer return to handsets per se," he said, but added that the Nokia "brand will return to the consumer world" through licensing deals in the longer term."
So yes, Nokia as a brand may live on in many forms, including set-top boxes, digital cameras, and maybe even smartphones, but not directly as Nokia-manufactured devices.
As mentioned earlier, the notion a CEO would steer his company back into a field in which they just left due to the division effectively failing would be a terrible idea. There would be too much risk in capital for the company whereas licensing the Nokia brand is a much safer and risk adverse endeavor to pursue.
In other words, let it go. There will be no more Nokia-developed smartphones.