The first decade of mobile telephony took its name. It is difficult to remember the weight that the company had within a booming sector. For Millennials and the most experienced of Generation X, the 3310 was like the iPhone of the nineties. A phone coveted by all, but without facial unlocking, fingerprints, color or whatsapp. It was blocked by pressing the center key and the asterisk. But does anyone remember what happened to Nokia?
Despite being off the radar, the Finnish company, which at its peak represented a quarter of the country's GDP, according to Guillermo de Haro, a professor in the IS / IT area at IE, has taken the path towards technological reconversion. Goodbye almost completely to the manufacture of telephones. The attempt to raise afloat a firm with more than 150 years of existence, with certain flirtations with bankruptcy in the middle of the financial crisis, it is going through the development of 5G networks and the machine learning. "We want to lead the industry towards this path, which will have a profound impact on many areas of society. We are one of only two companies in the world that can offer this point-to-point network, "says Risto Siilasmaa, president of Nokia.
Siilasmaa's speech sounds tremendously ambitious. Confident in his work since he disembarked at the head of the organization in mid-2012, this entrepreneur and venture capital manager aims to ostracize the once-Finnish flagship by hitting technology. And since there is no better way to preach by example, as he says, during the last year and a half he has devoted himself to learning artificial intelligence like a madman. "I'm always learning. I wanted to become an inspirer for the 100,000 employees that we are, of which 40,000 are only in R & D and have an investment of 5,000 million, "he adds.
The company managed to control more than 50% of the market share of mobile phones. Its turnover exceeded all Finnish GDP. The company was born on the banks of the Nokia River in 1865, 11 years before Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, dedicated to the manufacture of paper in a country where wood resources abounded. In the 80s, when Finland decided to bet on engineering and high technology as the engine of its development, the company decided to expand its business to the manufacture and sale of mobile phones.
The irruption in 2007 of the smartphone He caught Nokia in the back of his head. Their sales fell and in 2011, Nokia Corporation allied with Microsoft Corporation to try to re-enlist and incorporated its operating system in its terminals. Microsoft would be two years later with the division of devices and services of Nokia Corporation for about 5,400 million. The bet for the systems took place in 2005, with the Alcatel Lucent commission for more than 15,000 million. It would undo, however, the mobile division in 2016, which would sell to the Finnish HMD, created by former Nokia veterans.
"Maintaining the keyboard was not profitable at the time. Their devices stopped being attractive, in spite of their affordable price, to the detriment of Apple ", reasons of Haro. Completely offside in the sale of terminals and in the technology that it offered, The great lifeline that is embracing is becoming the reference of 5G networks. "It is more than a simple change of number in the G. This evolution will transform entire industries and society as a whole," Siilasmaa predicts. Beyond this interested euphoria, Haro lowers so much joy: "It is not at all clear that it is as different as it was between 3G and 4G. There may be some business in network infrastructures, but in the mass market it is where the money is. "
Promises in the air
In a context in which the internet of things is becoming widespread, the volume of data borders on the immeasurable and algorithms grow without control, the implementation of 5G seems the natural evolution to respond to so much technology. Nokia has already managed to close its first contract in the United States with this network with the operator T-Mobile, but this is far from standardizing its proposal. And as they seek not to stitch without thread in investments, this is where the machine learning he gives them a hand. "It's a strategic point for the entire company. Artificial intelligence helps to fix networks. Shorten the times exponentially. This we only achieved by improving the algorithms almost daily, "says Siilasmaa.
The spirit of the one that tries to impregnate the president of Nokia to his organization is the one of the startups. So much so that he seeks collaboration with those that benefit him in the evolution of this new adventure, although there are times when he makes a mistake. He does not tire of repeating that innovation they will only really get it with the right talent and testing in different businesses, as it has already done unsuccessfully in the health area. However, Siilasmaa has more problems that make it difficult for him to reconvert. "It is clear that a creative culture and talent are fundamental to maintaining the business, but Nokia does not have access to cheap money or the talent of those who surrounded themselves in their good times", ditch Haro.
The Finnish noventero giant has left the game Snake and the extensive manufacture of mobiles to give themselves purely to telecommunications and technology. The letter of 5G, added to all the innovative developments that comes with it, represents the attempt to resurface a company more than one hundred years old on the part of its president. "The first thing they have to do is give benefits; and I see it as complicated that a company focused on infrastructures, in the spirit of startup, I can obtain them greatly. It is a complicated transformation ", concludes de Haro. The cards are drawn and the bets are almost closed. In Finland they hope that the arrival of the new network does not leave them without coverage and the 5G is not a new Godot to which everyone expects but never arrives.