Network equipment maker Nokia has formally confirmed plans to return to smartphones two and a half years after selling its Devices and Services division to Microsoft.
However, the company is not exactly diving in with both feet. Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said at Mobile World Congress (MWC) that the company will not make the devices itself but will license the brand to a manufacturer in a similar way to Google with its Nexus phones.
"We want to be in a position to design the devices in question with appropriate control measures in case they don't meet expectations," Suri told reporters at MWC.
He added that Nokia isn't in a hurry to get back into smartphones, either. "There's no timeline, there's no rush. It could happen in 2016, it could happen later," he said.
Nokia sold its mobile phone-making division to Microsoft in September 2013 as sales of Nokia smartphones crashed owing to competition from Apple and Google. A belated shift from Symbian to Microsoft Windows Phone as its main smartphone operating system failed to reinvigorate sales and, indeed, probably contributed to the decline.
Microsoft's $7.2bn acquisition of Nokia smartphones was completed in April 2014. It was also one of the final major acts of former CEO Steve Ballmer, who had announced his resignation just a month earlier. Under the terms of the deal, Nokia was barred from producing its own smartphones until the fourth quarter of 2016.
Microsoft, meanwhile, was allowed to use the Nokia brand for smartphones for no more than 18 months after the completion of the deal, but up to 10 years for feature phones. Microsoft rebranded its Windows Phones from Nokia to Lumia.
The release of Nokia-branded smartphones is part of Suri's 10-year plan to return Nokia to greatness. He was instrumental in the growth and general success of Nokia Siemens Networks, and oversaw Nokia's acquisition of rival network equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent.
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