The last few years have been odd for Nokia. After failing to adjust to a post-iPhone world. it brought on former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop as CEO. Nokia’s Symbian platform had been slow to develop and was generally clunky compared to iOS and Android. It was clear the company needed a change, a sentiment expressed in Elop’s now-famous “Burning Platform” memo. The company basically had two options — go with Android or Windows Phone. Elop being a former Microsoft bigwig, it was a foregone conclusion that the company would side with Microsoft.Nokia was synonymous with cell phones for years as the industry took off. Almost everyone who had a mobile phone in the early 2000s was hauling around one of those giant Nokia bricks (you know the one). The smartphone revolution was not kind to Nokia, though, and Microsoft eventually bought the company’s devices and services division in 2014. Now Nokia is looking to get back into the phone game.
After making Lumia devices in partnership with Microsoft for about four years, Windows Phone still hadn’t found its footing. Microsoft could afford to keep plugging away on Windows Phone, but Nokia? Microsoft agreed to take on all the risk itself by purchasing Nokia’s phone division for $7.5 billion. One stipulation of that deal was that the remaining Nokia business could not produce and mobile phones until the final quarter of 2016.
Nokia spokesman Brett Young has now made it known that Nokia is looking to get back in the phone market just as soon as it’s contractually able. That means finding a “licensing partner” to handle the day-to-day operations of bringing a phone to market. Nokia would be involved with the design of the hardware and software, and also license the name and any necessary IP to its partner company. This is basically what Nokia did with the N1 tablet, which launched late last year in partnership with Foxconn.
As for what a new Nokia phone would look like, it would almost certainly be running Android like the N1 tablet. Nokia even has its own beta home screen launcher available on the Play Store called Z Launcher — it’s really all set. Microsoft would be unlikely to license Windows Phone to Nokia again, not that it would be a viable option at this point anyway.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but I don’t think Nokia will have any trouble finding a partner to build and market a phone. Nokia is still a household name with a reputation for building quality products. As long as it doesn’t simply slap the name on a white-label Chinese Android phone, it could still be a player in mobile.