Friday, July 18, 2014

Nokia: the end of history

Yesterday Microsoft, the new owner of the Nokia handset business, wielded the axe of their newly acquired unit cutting around 40% of the staff and all their product lines except for the Lumia smartphones [1] [2] [3].

Although most industry observers suspected that something like this would eventually be on the cards, the speed at which this has taken place is surprising.

But let's just think about what has happened. It doesn't just mean that the  Nokia X range of Android phones will be canned (including the X2 announced a few weeks ago), but there are also reports that this extends to the entire product line including the very popular Asha devices, venerable Series 40 feature phones and even the billion-selling Series 30 dumbphones.

That's everything that Nokia was ever built on. Sure, we won't miss the Nokia X platform, but probably almost everyone who has owned a phone will have owned a Series 30 or Series 40 Nokia at some point.. and will probably remember it fondly.

This joins the graveyard of Nokia operating systems - one of Stephen Elop's first actions as CEO of Nokia was to kill off the Symbian and MeeGo operating systems. Back in the distant past there was also the Series 90 touchscreen OS. Nokia even flirted with Linux-based devices before canning those. The list goes on.

So Nokia is just about Lumia now? Well, yes and no.. because it is reported that Microsoft can only use the NOKIA name until the end of 2015, at which point presumably they will be branded LUMIA instead. So is this the end of Nokia?

It seems that Nokia are barred from producing mobile devices until the end of 2015, and after that they are restricted from making smartphones for several more years.. but we don't know exactly how the agreement defines a smartphone (for example, we count the Asha range as feature phones, not smartphones). So it doesn't look great from that point of view.

However, with the handset business gone Nokia can act much more like a startup and think out-of-the-box. I strongly suspect that Nokia will re-enter the mobile device market in some form as soon as it can, after all there is still a large amount of brand loyalty and Nokia can be the masters of design and usability. So perhaps we haven't seen the last of Nokia.. but it seems that we have seen the last of Nokia's awesome legacy in the mobile phone world.

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