Nokia will look for 'world-class' hardware partner before jumping back into smartphones via licensing

Nokia (NYSE:NOK) reiterated that it will look for the right hardware partner before jumping back into the smartphone business via licensing its brand and technology, which won't happen until the fourth quarter of 2016 at the earliest.

"The right path back to mobile phones for Nokia is through a brand-licensing model. That means identifying a partner that can be responsible for all of the manufacturing, sales, marketing and customer support for a product," Nokia Technologies spokesman Robert Morlino said in a statement on Nokia's website.

"If and when we find a world-class partner who can take on those responsibilities, we would work closely with them to guide the design and technology differentiation, as we did with the Nokia N1 Android tablet," he continued. "That's the only way the bar would be met for a mobile device we'd be proud to have bear the Nokia brand, and that people will love to buy."

Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in April 2014 and has since focused on network equipment and mapping technology (though it may sell its HERE location and mapping unit). Yet Nokia still holds onto more than 10,000 patents, many related to mobile phone technologies. Indeed, Nokia has already made forays into handset technologies since the Microsoft deal. It currently offers the Z Launcher app on the Google Play app store that lets users scribble a letter or two to find their content more quickly. Over time, Nokia has said, the Z Launcher learns what applications are in use and predicts and highlights the applications consumers are expected to want based on time of day and location.

The N1 tablet is manufactured, distributed and sold by Foxconn. The N1 includes the Z Launcher.

When Microsoft officially acquired Nokia's devices business last spring, Microsoft was only licensed to use the Nokia name on Lumia Windows Phone smartphones for 18 months after the deal's closing. Microsoft can use the Nokia brand name on feature phones for 10 years. Microsoft has since dropped the Nokia name from its Lumia smartphones.

As part of the transaction, Nokia agreed not to license its brand for mobile phones until the fourth quarter of 2016. It's unclear if Nokia will solely license its brand and designs for Android phones or for Windows phones as well.

Last week Microsoft said it will cut around 7,800 jobs, mostly from its phone business, and record an impairment charge of around $7.6 billion related to its purchase of Nokia's devices and services business. The layoffs and writedown were seen by many as a clear indication that Microsoft has failed to gain traction in the smartphone market.

For more:
- see this Nokia statement
- see this Re/code article
- see this Reuters article

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