Photo: Ellis Hamburger, Business Insider
Nokia whiffed on building a true competitor to the iPhone until it released the Lumia 900 this year.It’s not because the company didn’t see the iPhone coming, rather it’s because the company was too dysfunctional to release a great smartphone.
That’s the takeaway from a terrific story by Anton Troianovski and Sven Grundberg at the Wall Street Journal on how Nokia lost the smartphone war.
Internally, Nokia’s designers were giving presentations on a single button, touch screen smartphone that would do email, gaming, and more seven years before the iPhone was released. Obviously, that Nokia phone never really hit the market.
However, as a result of Nokia’s R&D efforts, Troianovski and Grundberg report Nokia is sitting on $6 billion worth of patents. The company’s market cap is currently $6.42 billion, so investors are basically valuing the rest of the company at almost nothing.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop says he’s ready to sell some of the patents to keep Nokia alive. “We may decide there could be elements of it that could be sold off, turned into more immediate cash for us—which is something that is important when you’re going through a turnaround,” he told the Journal.
With the mobile patent wars raging around the world, this could turn into an interesting bidding war. Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Samsung, and many others would be interested in owning some of Nokia’s intellectual property.
What kind of patents are up for grabs? Here’s one example from an interview with Elop that’s broken out on Digits, the Wall Street Journal’s tech blog. This quote also illustrates Nokia’s failures to bring innovation to the market:
Elop: You know on an iPhone, you touch on the digital keyboard and you know how the letter pops up and shows up bigger so you’re making sure you’re touching the correct letter? That’s Nokia innovation. That’s something that Nokia designed and patented but it didn’t land in Nokia products for many years, and yet Apple had taken advantage of that innovation and landed it in their products.
So there are some really good examples of innovation that Nokia had invested in, had patented and so forth but because of this barrier that Symbian represented they just couldn’t land the products fast enough.
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