The mobile world has changed rapidly in the last couple of years. While some mobile players pioneered these changes, others were quite slow and couldn’t adapt to the lightening-fast changes. Earlier this year, there were reports from HIS iSuppli how Nokia’s 14-year run as the biggest phone manufacturer finally comes to an end. Most of us have loved our Nokia devices and it brings in a lot of nostalgia to many users, but that’s the problem. The company introduced us to the term smartphone in 2002. Just five years later, the iPhone was launched, changing everything one may demand from a smartphone, but Nokia failed to see the changing consumer demand. Though Nokia builds quality hardware for phones, it moved too slowly to catch up with its competitors in terms of OS and app ecosystem. In mere 2-3 years, Google and Apple have managed to shake Nokia off its position to run a two horsed mobile race. While the question on everyone’s mind was whether Nokia will ditch Symbian for Android, the company surprised everyone by joining hands with Microsoft’s Windows Phone. After a lukewarn response for the Lumia series last year, followed by dipping shares and hundreds of lay offs, Nokia’s future still doesn’t seem stable. Here’s a timeline showing the fall of this once-mighty company.
Nokia before the telecommunication era
Nokia’s identity is more than a century old, which goes back to 1856 while we were still ruled by the Britishers. It was founded by Fredrik Idestam as a paper manufacturing company. In 1871, Idestam along with Leo Mechelin transformed it into a share company and also renamed it as Nokia Company, as we know of it today. In 1902, Mechilin further expanded it into electricity business. However, it was years later in 1967 that Nokia came across as a true global corporation after Nokia Company merged with Finnish Cable Works and Finnish Rubber Works. This new company as a whole had its foot in several market segments from paper products, car and bicycle tyres, footwear, communication cables, televisions and other consumer electronics, personal computers, electricity generation machinery, and more. But in the 90s, the company divested itself of all its non-telecommunication business to focus on the telecommunication market.
1967 to 2000
It was during the 60s that Nokia gave markets a taste of its electronics division and developed its first electronic device in 1962. Till we reached the 70s, it had deepened its roots into telecommunication. In 70s and 80s, it developed digital switch for telephone exchanges and a digital, portable and encrypted text-based communications device. Nokia had its stint with producing communication technology for the military till then and by the beginning of the 80s, it began developing mobile phones. In 1988, the company turned into Nokia mobile phones. The company launched its first GSM phone dubbed 1101 in 1992 and followed it by Nokia 2100 in 1994. It was the Nokia 2100 that showed the famous Nokia tune. GSM brought along high-quality (as per the standards then) voice calls, international roaming, support for text message services (SMS). Needless to say, it was the beginning of the mobile boom. In fact, with the growing popularity of GSM, Nokia became the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world in 1998.
Value for money
In 2000, the word smartphone was already coined and the Ericsson R380 was considered the first smartphone. In 2001, Nokia build the 9210 Communicator that ran on Symbian OS combining PDA and a phone. But these so-called ‘smartphone’ devices were only meant for enterprise and business market and didn't find its space in the consumer markets, wherein people were just getting used to the mobile world. In 2002, the company launched the Nokia 7650, which went on to become quite popular among the masses and sold in large numbers.
In 2003, Nokia continued to launch its value for money phones running on the Symbian OS. The Nokia 1100 managed to garner a lot of attention and the company sold millions of units. In fact, I also owned the Nokia 1100 for a while. The company also focused on gamers and launched the N-gage, a phone that paved way for gaming onto mobile phones.
In 2005, Nokia continued to sell some good value for money devices like the 6030, 6111, the clamshell 6101, 6230 and so on. It was this year that the company also conceived the famous N series. In 2006, it put music at the forefront, probably to compete with Sony Ericsson’s Walkman series. The company did so with its XpressMusic phones like the 3250 running on S60 3rd edition and then 5200 and 5300 in 2007 running on S40 3rd edition. In 2007, Nokia realised the potential of touchscreens and with the iPhone release on cards, it quickly launched the Nokia 7710. During the same year, Nokia also launched the popular N82 with a 5 megapixel camera and Xenon flash.
This was the year when it had to deal with the popularity of the iPhone and the enterprise-favourite Blackberry devices. Nokia had enjoyed its position since 2002, but with the launch of the iPhone, the definition of smartphones had suddenly changed. It was now that phones weren’t considered to make mere calls and texts. Apple brought a complete ecosystem with it. The iPhone managed to wow audiences and its App store was increasing by the day. Nokia then moved its focus over to Internet on Phones and launched the ‘Ovi’ store in beta. It was this year that Nokia also prepped up for future mobile advancements and completed the acquisition of Navteq for digital maps. On the other hand, Nokia also knew it had to move from the alphanumeric keybords, owing to the popularity of the Blackberry QWERTYs. It soon released its QWERTY-enabled Nokia E71, which was later followed by E72 to directly compete with BlackBerry devices.
Colour splashed N8
The iPhone’s popularity was on the rise and none of Nokia’s devices were as close as the iPhone then. Despite the high price, people were willing to pay for the complete closed Apple experience. Touchscreens were becoming an innovation. Nokia’s touch devices weren't creating any magic but the company still managed to make some profit and was still a hit in the developing markets like India. Nokia continued to dish out low-end entry level phones and music phones like Nokia X6 and X3.
In 2010, Nokia decided to bring to users the best of both touch and physical keyboard. It went on to release several ‘Touch and Type’ phones, for instance, the C series. This year also saw Nokia's colour splashed N8 which ran on Symbian^3. It was this year that Stephen Elop was appointed as the new CEO of Nokia and the company had already started facing losses owing to wide acceptance of Android. Samsung had started invading the low to mid-end markets which were once dominated by Nokia.
The Symbian magic was fading by the day while iPhone and Android popularity was on a continuous rise. Symbian platform looked quite outdated as Android and iOS were loaded with newer, refreshing and advanced versions with each year. Nokia couldn't adapt to the rapid changes. Then soon enough, Symbian looked as if it didn't have anything to offer. Moreover, Samsung along with Android support had begun to invade low to high-end market with much better features than what Symbian could offer. Moreover, Samsung’s strategically designed Corby series was becoming a huge hit. Nokia’s popularity was dipping and so were its shares. The question was whether the company will join hands with Google. To wriggle out of the mess, Nokia joined hands with Microsoft, which was equally striving to bounce back into the mobile market. Windows Phone was soon to replace Symbian and MeeGo on the higher side. Some mid-end Nokia phones would still show traces of Symbian versions – Belle and Anna.
In fact, Nokia was supposed to release the Meego device in 2011 and was also to invest in Symbian 40, but soon it decided not to do so. It cut spending on research and development and instead invested in customising its products for Windows 7. Nokia is working closely with Microsoft as Bing and Nokia maps become core part of its Windows devices. However, Nokia-Microsoft announcement didn't come as a rescue for it as its share fell by 14 percent, which was the highest drop it faced since 2009. The Lumia series was launched running on Windows Phone (Lumia 710 and Lumia 800) and didn’t take off that well. The losses were increasing and the company started announcing job cuts.
In spite of the ambitious Lumia series, the year didn't begin on a good note for Nokia. It continued to lay off jobs and face losses. In June this year, the company announced that it will be cutting off 10,000 jobs by the end of 2013. The company recently launched the Nokia Lumia 920 with superior specs that puts it at par with the latest iPhone and Galaxy S3, but the future is still unpredictable. Whether this device – or the devices in its pipeline – will pull back Nokia on track is still unsure. Nokia’s popularity in developing countries also began to fade. Samsung and local brands like Micromax and Spice are gaining more popularity in India while it faced competition from companies like ZTE and Huawei in China. The company showed the PureView technology and made heads turn with the 808 with 41MP camera, but we think that isn’t enough.
Nokia's Lumia series
The popularity of Android in the low to mid-end market made Nokia lose the fizz there, and Microsoft cannot uplift it completely as Windows Phone 8 plans to target just the creme de la creme of the market (at least that’s what it has said so far). In the low end market, Nokia still has its Asha series running on the Symbian platform. For us, Nokia is the brand that we could relate to and definitely brings in a lot of nostalgia. But in the mobile age, one needs to be technologically aware and prepared for future all the time. Let’s wait and watch if Nokia is able to resurrect itself from this situation and right now, it largely depends on the success of Windows Phone 8.