Over the past 150 years, Nokia has evolved from a riverside paper mill in southwestern Finland to a global telecommunications leader connecting over 1.3 billion people. During that time, we’ve made rubber boots and car tires. We’ve generated electricity. We’ve even manufactured TVs. Changing with the times, disrupting the status quo – it’s what we’ve always done. And we fully intend to keep doing it.
The story so far.
In 1865, mining engineer Fredrik Idestam sets up his first wood pulp mill at the Tammerkoski Rapids in Southwestern Finland. A few years later he opens a second mill on the banks of the Nokianvirta river, which inspires him to name his company Nokia Ab in 1871.
How apt that Nokia begins by making paper – one of the most influential communications technologies in history.
The galoshes revolution.
OK, so it’s not exactly a revolution. But in 1898, Eduard Polón founds the Finnish Rubber Works, which later becomes Nokia’s rubber business, making everything from galoshes to tires.
Nokia rubber boots become a bona fide design classic, still on sale to this day – though we no longer make them.
Electronics go boom.
In 1912, Arvid Wickström sets up the Finnish Cable Works, the foundation of Nokia’s cable and electronics business.
By the 1960s, Finnish Cable Works – already working closely with Nokia Ab and the Finnish Rubber Works – starts branching out into electronics. In 1962, it makes its first electronic device in-house: a pulse analyzer for use in nuclear power plants.
In 1963, it starts developing radio telephones for the army and emergency services – Nokia’s first foray into telecommunications. In time, the company’s MikroMikko becomes the best known computer brand in Finland. And by 1987, Nokia is the third largest TV manufacturer in Europe.
Three become one.
Having been jointly owned since 1922, Nokia Ab, Finnish Cable Works and Finnish Rubber Works officially merge in 1967. The new Nokia Corporation has five businesses: rubber, cable, forestry, electronics and power generation. But as the 1980s come into view, it’s an entirely new industry that makes Nokia a household name around the world.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s it seems everything – from Tom Selleck’s mustache to JR Ewing’s list of enemies – is seriously big. And as the mobile communications revolution starts to gather momentum, the early handsets continue the trend.
The new Nokia Corporation is ideally placed to take a pioneering role in this new industry, leading the way with some iconic – and by today’s standards, very large – products.
The mobile era begins.
Nokia sets the ball rolling in 1979, creating radio telephone company Mobira Oy as a joint venture with leading Finnish TV maker Salora. Then in 1981, the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) service, the world’s first international cellular network and the first to allow international roaming, is launched.
The NMT standard catches on fast and the mobile phone industry begins to expand rapidly. In 1982, Nokia introduces the first car phone – the Mobira Senator – to the network. That same year, the Nokia DX200, the company’s first digital telephone switch, goes into operation.
Good enough for Gorbachev.
In 1984, Nokia launches the Mobira Talkman portable car phone. Resembling a military field telephone, it’s a fairly cumbersome piece of kit – but it’s a start.
Then in 1987, Nokia introduces the Mobira Cityman, the first handheld mobile phone for NMT networks. Despite weighing in at 800 grams and a price tag of 24,000 Finnish Marks (around EUR 4,560), it goes on to become a classic. The Cityman even earns a nickname, the “Gorba”, after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is pictured using one to make a call from Helsinki to his communications minister in Moscow.
Over the next decade, millions of consumers worldwide enjoy their very own Gorbachev moment as the mobile revolution takes hold.
In 1987, GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) is adopted as the European standard for digital mobile technology. With its high-quality voice calls, international roaming and support for text messages, GSM ignites a global mobile revolution.
As a key player in developing this new technology, Nokia is able to take full advantage.
A new direction.
On July 1, 1991, Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri makes the world’s first GSM call, using Nokia equipment. And in 1992, Nokia launches its first digital handheld GSM phone, the Nokia 1011.
That same year, new Nokia President and CEO Jorma Ollila makes a crucial strategic decision: to focus exclusively on manufacturing mobile phones and telecommunications systems. Nokia’s rubber, cable and consumer electronics divisions are gradually sold off.
Name that tune.
In 1994, Nokia launches the 2100 series, the first phones to feature the Nokia Tune ringtone. Based on Gran Vals, a classical guitar piece composed by Francisco Tarrega in the 19th century, it is probably one of the most frequently played pieces of music in the world. The Nokia 2100 series goes on to sell 20 million phones worldwide. Nokia’s target was 400,000.
1994 also sees the world’s first satellite call, made using a Nokia GSM handset.
Hear Gran Vals, the inspiration for the Nokia Tune.
In 1997, everybody knows their Snake high score. An instant classic, the addictive game is launched on the Nokia 6110, and by 2010 its successors are available on an estimated 350 million mobile phones.
On top of the world.
By 1998, Nokia is the world leader in mobile phones. The strategic decision to focus on telecommunications, plus the early investment in GSM, has paid off. Between 1996 and 2001, Nokia’s turnover increases almost fivefold from EUR 6.5 billion to EUR 31 billion.
As the new millennium dawns, everything changes. New technology enables the Internet to go mobile, opening up a world of possibilities for mobile users. No longer are phones just for phone calls.
In 1999, Nokia launches the Nokia 7110, a phone capable of rudimentary web-based functions, including email. Then in November 2001 Nokia launches its first phone with a built-in camera, the Nokia 7650, and in September 2002 its first video capture phone, the Nokia 3650.
However, it’s when Nokia launches its first 3G phone (third generation), the Nokia 6650, in 2002 that things really take off. With 3G technology, phones can now be used to browse the web, download music, watch TV on the move, and more.
Mobiles will never be the same again.
One billion and counting.
In 2005, Nokia sells its billionth phone – a Nokia 1100 – in Nigeria, and global mobile phone subscriptions pass 2 billion. Two years later, Nokia is recognised as the 5th most valued brand in the world.
Things have come a long way since Fredrik Idestam opened his paper mill.
Building networks for the future.
In 2007, Nokia combined its telecoms infrastructure operations with those of Siemens to form a joint venture named Nokia Siemens Networks. NSN grows to become a leading global provider of telecommunications infrastructure, with a focus on offering innovative mobile broadband technology and services. In 2013, Nokia acquires Siemens’ 50% stake in NSN, which becomes Nokia Solutions and Networks, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nokia.
Putting the world on the map.
2008 marks an important milestone for Nokia, as the company acquires NAVTEQ, the US-based maker of digital mapping and navigational software. Nokia, which had already been investing in mapping for many years, was now even more serious about providing people with the very best in location-based services. Fast forward to the present day, and Nokia is now offering location-based services through the HERE brand.
For years, Nokia has been working to make its business practices and products as environmentally and socially responsible as possible – from creating eco-friendly handsets and establishing phone recycling schemes to bringing the benefits of mobility to emerging markets. This commitment to sustainability is recognized in a number of prestigious rankings.
A meeting of minds.
In 2011, Nokia announces it is joining forces with Microsoft to strengthen its position in the smartphone market. The strategic partnership sees Nokia smartphones adopt the Windows Phone operating system and establish an alternative ecosystem to rivals iOS and Android. Nokia also kicks off a sequence of changes designed to enable it to build better products, faster. These changes include a revitalization of Nokia’s company culture, where speed, accountability and results are central.
Nokia launches its first Windows Phones, the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Nokia Lumia 710, in October 2011. Fast-forward to 2013 and Nokia has a full portfolio of great Windows Phone 8 smartphones, from the Lumia 520 through the award-winning Lumia 920 and the ground-breaking Lumia 1020, which enables photography never seen before in a smartphone. At the same time, the company continues to be committed to offering affordable phones which combine great design and an intuitive user interface with compelling, localized experiences. The Asha line of devices are bestsellers in numerous countries around the globe.
The next chapter.
A company which has embraced change throughout its 150-year history looks to reinvent itself once again. In September 2013, Nokia announces that it has entered into an agreement with Microsoft whereby Microsoft would purchase substantially all Devices & Services, the Nokia business which makes mobile phones and smartphones. The transaction is subject to approval by Nokia's shareholders, regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.
Building on the partnership with Nokia and the increasing success of Nokia's Lumia smartphones, Microsoft aims to accelerate the growth of its share and profit in mobile devices through faster innovation, increased synergies, and unified branding and marketing. For Nokia, the transaction is expected to be significantly accretive to earnings, strengthen its financial position, and provide a solid basis for future investment in its continuing businesses.
Following the transaction, Nokia plans to focus on its three established businesses, each of which is a leader in enabling mobility in its respective market segment: NSN, a leader in network infrastructure and services; HERE, a leader in mapping and location services; and Advanced Technologies, a leader in technology development and licensing.
The next chapter begins.