Nokia company profile: What's next for the world's biggest mobile firm?

Summary:Its hardware, its software and its fightback against the likes of Apple...

Its hardware, its software and its fightback against the likes of Apple...

The mid-2000s represent something of a high-water mark for Nokia. In 2005, it was the undisputed king of the mobile market having sold its billionth handset.

Today, while Nokia remains the world's largest seller of mobile phones, its prospects have changed dramatically. The company now faces slipping market share, competing mobile operating systems and a world where Apple and Android are regarded as the smartphone leaders.

Nokia's history
For a tech company, Nokia has a longer history than most. The company started life as a paper mill at the Tammerkoski Rapids in south-western Finland in 1865. Over the years, it added business lines including rubber boot manufacture - the wellies are still sold at Nokia's Finnish HQ in a nod to the company's past - and cable-making before it ended up as an electronics company in the 1960s.

Nokia rubber boots business

A 1905 advert for Nokia's rubber boots business
(Image credit: Nokia)

Despite first making computers, Nokia really made its name as a manufacturer of portable phones.

Its first mobile - in the way it's understood today - was a GSM phone launched in 1992, the same year that Jorma Ollila became Nokia's president and CEO. Ollila steered the company though the mobile boom of the 1990s and early 2000s and remains the company's chairman to this day.

Today, the company has expanded beyond simply selling mobile devices and now has four main business strands: devices - its handset business; services - apps and software; Navteq, which covers mapping and location services; and its networking joint venture, Nokia Siemens Networks.

Apart from a tentative return to its computing roots with a netbook launch last year, Nokia's hardware business is focused on mobile handsets.

Nokia breaks its handsets down into two categories: common-or-garden mobiles and "converged internet devices".

The pure-play mobiles often bear a model name made up of numbers and are voice- and text-centric. The converged internet devices, which sport model names often consisting of a letter and a number, are more expensive and come with the usual array of features expected from high-end handsets, including apps, GPS, a multi-megapixel camera and perhaps an accelerometer.

The best-known product lines in the converged internet devices section are the Nseries - high-end entertainment handsets such as the N97 - and the Eseries of business-focused mobiles.

Nokia's Services unit looks after its software and, as the name suggests, internet services which are brought together under the Ovi brand - Ovi is the Finnish word for door.

The usual suspects are available through Ovi both via the desktop and Nokia mobiles - online storage and back-up for photos, videos, calendar and contacts; mobile email; music; gaming; maps and Files, an application that allows users to download and view files held on your PC via your mobile.

Nokia also runs the Ovi Store, the Nokia equivalent of Apple's all-conquering App Store, where users can download extra apps for their devices from Nokia as well as third-party developers.

With Nokia also aiming to increase...

Topics: Mobility


Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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