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Nokia denies plans for mobile comeback

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Don't start planning an upgrade to a 3210 next year, warns Nokia

Nokia has brushed off reports that it’s planning a comeback in the mobile phone market. Last week, it was suggested the company would start selling mobile phones again next year, once its agreement not to compete against Microsoft – who bought Nokia’s handset division in 2013 – had come to an end.  

However, an abrupt statement posted on the company’s website over the weekend has poured a bucket of cold water over those rumours. “Nokia notes recent news reports claiming the company communicated an intention to manufacture consumer handsets out of a R&D facility in China,” the statement reads. “These reports are false, and include comments incorrectly attributed to a Nokia Networks executive. Nokia reiterates it currently has no plans to manufacture or sell consumer handsets.”

The operative word in that statement is “currently”. Perhaps keen to avoid invoking the wrath of Microsoft’s lawyers by being seen to re-enter the mobile market before the non-compete agreement has expired, Nokia may simply be biding its time. 

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However, it’s highly unlikely that the company will return to mainstream mobile manufacturing in the way it did previously. As we noted last week, the company sold all of its handset manufacturing plants and supply chain to Microsoft as part of the £4.5 billion deal in 2013. It also sold valuable expertise, with 25,000 Nokia staff joining Microsoft as part of the deal, many of whom have been subsequently laid off.

Instead, Nokia may look to licence its name to handsets manufactured by a third party. There are plenty of companies manufacturing smartphones who have zero brand recognition in the West. Nokia could give one of these manufacturers a headstart with the Nokia name, even if the phones will have little or no connection to the company that was at one time the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer.

It’s not unusual for brand names to live a separate life from the company that first launched them. Commodore, Polaroid and the VAIO brand of laptops have all been reused by companies who have no connection to the firm that made them famous in the first place.  

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