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The Nokia marque is to return to the smartphone market under the guidance of recently formed Finnish company HMD Global, which secured a 10-year brand licensing agreement to use the Nokia name earlier this year.
The firm has already taken on board the old Nokia feature phone business from Microsoft Mobile, giving it a significant global presence from day one, but will launch its first Nokia Android smartphones in the first half of 2017 through a design partnership with device OEM FIH Mobile, which is part of Foxconn. It is also working with Nokia itself, and Google.
The business will be led by Arto Nummela, currently Microsoft’s vice-president of mobile devices in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, himself a Nokia veteran.
“Nokia has been one of the most iconic and recognisable phone brands globally for decades,” he said. “The excitement of reintroducing this much-loved, well-known and trusted brand to smartphone consumers is a responsibility and an ambition that everyone at HMD shares.”
The firm said it would develop an “exciting new consumer-centric product range” with a focus on quality and user experience.
“We see this as a brilliant opportunity to solve real-life consumer problems and to deliver on the quality and designs that the Nokia brand has always been known for,” said Nummela.
Nokia Technologies interim president Brad Rodrigues added: “We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown around the world for the return of the Nokia brand to smartphones. The HMD Global team has the ambition, talent and resources to bring a new generation of Nokia branded phones to market, and we wish them every success.”
The Nokia name was retired from use on smartphones in October 2014, barely a year after its multibillion-dollar acquisition by Microsoft as former chief exec Steve Ballmer tried in vain to transform Microsoft into a devices and services business, a strategy subsequently reversed by current boss Satya Nadella.
Many of the Nokia device employees laid off by Microsoft in several rounds of redundancies following the acquisition – which is now widely acknowledged as one of the most poorly executed tech deals in history – have subsequently found their way to HMD, and to other Finnish startups.