Microsoft offloads feature phone business, as sale leads to revival of Nokia name
Soon to become Nokia again: the Microsoft Windows Phone-powered Lumia device. Image by Gaidenko (via Shutterstock).
In the last two days, we at Tabard IT have seen another chapter close on Microsoft’s ill-fated attempt at taking on Apple and Google in the smartphone market. As of yesterday, Microsoft has offloaded their feature phone business. It has been sold to FIH Mobile for £239.6m, a company created by Foxconn Technology. As a result of Microsoft’s divestment from the mobile phone scene, we shall be seeing the return of a familiar name: that of Nokia.
A newly created company, HMD Global, has been formed to ensure a “focused, independent home for a full range of Nokia-branded feature phones, smartphones, and tablets.”
The rise, decline, and revival of the Nokia brand
For many a mobile phone user in the late-1990s and early 2000s, Nokia was top dog. Their phones had the best ringtones. There was also the addictive Snake and Space Attack games, preloaded onto the device. Plus you could buy Xpress-On covers, which enabled you to personalise your phone. Instead of the usual black, you could opt for silver, pink, blue, or the colours of your favourite football team.
They were renowned for solid build quality, so much so that YouTube has a number of videos focusing on how far one could drop a Nokia 3310. Then there was the infamous ringtone, using a phrase from Francisco Tarrega’s Gran Vals, written in 1902.
By 2011, Nokia had lost out to Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s Blackberry phones, having plumped for the dated Symbian operating system. Android would begin to make inroads. It was 2013 when Microsoft purchased the Finnish company’s feature phone business, including rights to the Lumia range of smartphones. They would use the Windows Phone operating system. Nokia’s lower end phones would still be produced, offering a standard phone for persons eschewing (or lacking the budget for a) smartphone.
In 2014, all of Nokia’s smartphones were rebranded as Microsoft phones. Windows Phone was losing ground to Android. Though many commentators had heralded the demise of Windows Phone, it has clung onto dear life.
This week’s announcement has effectively killed off Windows Phone as a mobile platform. The newest Nokia-branded tablets and smartphones will no longer use Windows Phone. Instead, they’ll be using Google’s Android operating system – the world’s Number One mobile OS.
Between 1998 and 2011, Nokia was the world’s leading mobile phone manufacturer. Early models included the Communicator (an electronic Filofax within a mobile phone case), and the 7110 (first Nokia device to come with WAP access). Could the company’s glory years of the 1990s return? We shall see.