Nokia appears to be resigning itself to chalking up another failure in its attempts consumer-facing products. The Finnish company, which took over French peer Alcatel-Lucent in 2016, entered the consciousness of many in the early 2000s, as a dominant player in the earlier phases of the mobile phone era. Most of us will count one of the classic Nokia models among our first mobile handsets. However, Nokia failed to maintain that position into the era of the smartphone. A doomed partnership with Microsoft to create the handsets for the Windows mobile OS failed to reinvigorate Nokia as a company for consumer-facing technology.
Nokia’s present day success is mainly based on its enterprise telecommunications hardware rather than consumer electronics. The Nokia brand made a comeback in the smartphone market, though through a partnership with another company, HMD Global, who acquired the Nokia license. Early signs are the new Nokia smartphones have been a success but it’s not really Nokia, but HMD Global, that are responsible for that. Now, it looks like another Nokia foray into consumer-facing tech has proven to be a failure.
Two years ago Nokia acquired French health tech company Withings and its popular Health Mate mobile app. The company also made smart IoT products such as weighing scales and air quality monitors that fed data into the app. The company faced a backlash from users after a re-branded Nokia version of the Health Mate app removed popular features and had wider technical issues.
A BBC report covering the discontent back in July 2017 saw one customer give the following withering assessment of Nokia’s involvement:
“Nokia took over and totally trashed the Withings app in one swoop. The first release of the app was so full of bugs it was incredible. Their new app is appalling and everyone wants the old one back, which we loved.They’ve decimated our investment in quite expensive Withings products.”
It now looks as though the company may be ready to cut its losses and beat another retreat from a consumer-facing products failure. This week Nokia announced “a strategic review of its digital health business”. This review “may or may not result in any transaction or other changes”.
Withings, acquired for $190 million 2 years ago was already written down by $164 last October by Nokia, an admission of having initially been substantially overvalued. A year ago Nokia hit another consumer tech venture in Ozo, a virtual reality camera project. 300 jobs went with the end of Ozo and another 400 redundancies were announced along with the strategic review of the digital healthcare business.
Perhaps it is time for Nokia to focus on the enterprise market and leave consumer electronics technology to others, or in licensing partnerships such as with HMD Global. It looks like that could be the best approach for the good of its health.