富国银行（Wells Fargo）高级分析师梅纳德•阿姆在一份报告中写道：“我们认为，此次交易对诺基亚更为有利。因为，我们认为鉴于激烈的竞争和有限的产品接受度，诺基亚设备与服务部门的未来充满了风险。此次交易和收回合资公司诺基亚西门子公司（Nokia Siemens Network，NSN）将使诺基亚完成向网络基础设施业务的转变。”（诺基亚的剩余业务包括通讯设备业务、地图技术和专利许可部门）。阿姆补充说，更重要的是，这笔交易将增强微软-诺基亚合作的产品组合的财政实力。当然，前提是微软打好手中的牌。
It's a sad day for Finland. Or is it? Sure, much of the phonemaker's storied legacy -- and future -- is now in Microsoft's hands, a bitter pill to swallow for many Finns. And yes, 32,000 Nokia employees will become part of the Redmond-based tech giant's empire overnight, whether they like it or not. But Nokia's (NOK) downward spiral began a long time ago, and the company wasn't headed toward any kind of happy ending, with or without Microsoft (MSFT) swooping in to buy its devices and services business for $7.2 billion. What's more, the deal may actually give the Finnish brand a sliver of a chance to regain some of its lost momentum. Especially if Stephen Elop -- yes, the Nokia CEO and former Microsoft exec now blamed for this most recent turn of events -- lands the top job in Redmond.
Nokia, once the top smartphone manufacturer in the world, no longer cracks the top five. Sales of its Lumia line of phones have been growing, but not fast enough to offset massive drops in other products. In the company's most recent quarter, revenue fell 24% compared with the prior year. Its stock has been in decline for years. What happened? There were many causes for the downfall, but arrogance and a misguided focus on growing market share no matter the costs are two big ones. Like BlackBerry (BBRY), Nokia didn't take the iPhone's 2007 debut seriously. The U.S. market -- now home to the two leading smartphone operating systems in the world, Apple's (AAPL) iOS and Google's (GOOG) Android -- was merely an afterthought. And even as the world around them was changing, company execs clung to Symbian, Nokia's aging operating system, for far too long.
By the time Elop came on board in 2010, Nokia's reputation and market share were already tanking. "What has happened over the last couple of years is there has been a shift from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems," Elop told an audience of mobile developers at a Qualcomm (QCOM) conference in 2011. Sure enough, soon after he took over the company, the CEO made a series of bold moves, most significantly hitching the company's fate to Microsoft's Windows operating system. The resulting offspring of that marriage is Nokia's Lumia line of phones. And while Elop's loyalties (and ability to lead the Finnish company) have been questioned, the Lumia smartphones are probably the best thing out of Espoo in a long time.
Elop's tenure at Nokia has been controversial, but unlike insiders he had the ability to divorce the company from Symbian and make a much-needed bet on a more viable operating system (albeit not a very popular one). It may have been too little, too late, and the "turnaround" Elop has subsequently led hasn't been flawless, to say the least. But this week's sale to Microsoft isn't surprising given the trajectory laid out in 2011. Investors are welcoming the deal, sending Nokia's share price up over 40% Tuesday morning.
"We view this positively for Nokia, as we believe the path for the Device & Services business was fraught with peril given competitive forces and its limited product acceptance," Maynard Um, a senior analyst with Wells Fargo, wrote in a report. "This sale and the buyout of the Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) joint venture all but completes the transformation of Nokia into a network infrastructure-focused business." (The remaining Nokia will consist of the company's telecom equipment business, mapping technologies and an IP licensing division). What's more, added Um, the sale puts more "financial muscle" behind the combined Microsoft-Nokia portfolio of products. That is, of course, if Microsoft plays its cards right.