By David J. Cord, September 2013
The sale of Nokia’s mobile phone business is one step in the evolution of both the company and Finland.
“Nokia has defined itself by reinvention.” So said Nokia’s chief financial officer, Timo Ihamuotila, during the press conference to announce the company’s new direction. He was not exaggerating: at various times since its beginning in 1865 Nokia has specialised in making paper, cables, televisions, rubber boots, and more recently, mobile phones. Now it is evolving once again.
Nokia has announced it will sell its mobile handset division to Microsoft and in the future focus upon network infrastructure, location-based services and licensing its enormous storehouse of patents. Both companies will now have a large presence in Finland and concentrate upon their specialties.
“This is a good thing for Finland,” says Eero Lehto, chief of forecasting for the Labour Institute for Economic Research. “We have had good experiences with Microsoft and other such acquisitions in the past. It will be exciting if they could develop new technologies here.”
Lehto was happy to hear that Microsoft planned to build a data centre in Finland, just as Google has done. This reiterates the fact that Finland continues to be a place to invest for innovative sectors beyond mobile technology. Most importantly, he is optimistic on what the deal means for the new Nokia. He thinks the changed focus for the company will yield impressive benefits.
“The Networks division is doing very well,” Lehto says. “It has got some good deals recently, and now they will have even more resources. HERE – their location-based services – is very big, too.”
Nokia’s new direction is leading people to remember the past, and how Nokia and Finland evolved simultaneously. The author of the book The History of Finland, Jason Lavery of Oklahoma State University, recalls that the company’s great growth period coincided with major changes in Finland. At that time Finland became to be seen as a very vibrant, confident and creative country.
“The rise of Nokia came at a time when Finns were willing to elect a woman as president and monsters to represent them in the Eurovision song contest,” Lavery says, referring to Tarja Halonen’s election in 2000 and Lordi’s triumph in 2006, respectively.
Although people around the world knew of Halonen and Lordi, many of them identified Finland with the Nokia phones they used every day. It became part of a perceived national identity, but this is constantly changing and evolving.
“National identities are living beings, not frozen in amber,” Lavery says. “In 30 years I’ve seen Finns portray themselves as between East and West, the most American country in Europe, and the nation of Olympic runners Paavo Nurmi and Lasse Virén, among other self-portrayals. Times change and nations change with them.”
Teivo Teivainen, professor of world politics at the University of Helsinki, is hopeful about what these changes at Nokia mean for the future of Finnish identities. Often when people identify with the nation they think about Nokia or historical struggles to stay independent, but now there is an opportunity to think more broadly.
“I would like to see our identity more closely identified with how we were the first country in the world to give women political rights so they could vote and run for office, or even our public library system. We are proud of these things, but they are too seldom associated with national identity, “ Teivanen says.
See also on thisisFINLAND
Statement by Jan Vapaavuori, Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs, at The Guardian
Interview of Alexander Stubb, Finland’s Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade, on CNBC
Minister Vapaavuori on BBC World Service, World Business Report
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