Without devices, Nokia may appear a lot less interesting as a company, but it's still "strong" and has a bucket load of mobile patents, according to Nokia chairman Risto Siilasma.
Once Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's treasured devices and services business proceeds, Siilasma notes, a little under half of Nokia's trailing 12 months revenues will move to Microsoft, along with 32,000 of its current 88,000 employees.
What remains of Nokia is three separate business units: its network business, formerly known as Nokia Siemens Networks — and now, wholly owned by Nokia, its biggest source of revenue — as well as Nokia's Here location and mapping brand, and a newly formed business called 'Advanced Technologies', home to Nokia's CTO unit and the IP team.
For a recap on the relative standing of each group, last quarter NSN generated €2.8bn compared with revenue from devices and services of €2.7bn. Nokia has promoted Here more aggressively in recent months, but Nokia watchers know it remains a comparatively small income stream for the company, with net sales of just €233m last quarter.
At that rate, prior to Microsoft's acquisition, Here revenues were only slightly larger than those that will now fall under Nokia's new Advanced Technologies unit. Nokia estimated last quarter it had an annual run rate of around €500m from intellectual property rights revenues from its devices and services business alone. The new unit, Siilasma says, will focus on exploring "new, and strategically important topics".
With a massive mobile patent portfolio, Nokia has successfully pursued licensing agreements with Apple and BlackBerry, and has ongoing patent cases with Google's Motorola and HTC, last week winning a case in Germany against the latter, as FOSS Patents blogger Florian Mueller reports.
Nokia's IPR revenues should also rise after Microsoft's acquisition, which included licensing rights to Nokia's patents under a 10-year deal for €1.65bn.
Meanwhile, Nokia's deep patent portfolio could make it a rather significant figure as one of the mobile industry’s largest non-practicing entities after its devices business moves to Microsoft. The tens of billions of euros Nokia spent on R&D over past five years (for example, €3.5bn in 2005, €3.9bn in 2006, €5.7bn in 2007) didn't serve it well during the transition to smartphones, but as Siilasma notes, Nokia now has around 10,000 patent families under its belt.
"Nokia's investment in research and development also helped us build what we believe is the largest and strongest intellectual property portfolio in our industry, with around 10,000 carefully selected patent families. We've already established a successful patent and technology licensing operation, which we will expand to continue to drive revenue and profit for Nokia through the new Advanced Technologies business," he writes.
And with devices out of the way, as well as Microsoft's ongoing licensing of Nokia's Here technologies, perhaps Nokia can lift that business more successfully than in the past.
Here, according to Siilasma, will be focusing on connected devices, enterprise solutions and cars, such as the embedded navigation systems Nokia's been showing off this week in Germany, aligning itself with self-driving cars.
"We believe that location technologies and services will be pivotal in the next phase of the mobile internet, where more and more devices are connected to the cloud. We also believe that location will become an essential building block across all industries," he writes.