Nokia is about to make a (presumably) triumphant return to the mobile market (opens in new tab), with new smartphones and tablets and a new organization (opens in new tab).
The timing of Nokia’s announcement was curious--mere hours before the I/O 2016 keynote where Google announced its Daydream mobile VR ecosystem--and we couldn’t help but put two and two together. Oh, and there’s the (admittedly thin) connection between the name of the newly-formed holding company for Nokia: HMD. Could it be a coincidence? Was mobile VR going to be a part of the Finnish company’s big play in mobile?
Sometimes, though, the news is that there’s no news. In an email, a representative from the Brunswick Group, which represents HMD (and by proxy, Nokia), was unequivocal: “I can confirm that HMD’s agreement with Nokia explicitly does not include other devices such as VR headsets (and Nokia has no plans to license it to HMD in the future). HMD is focused on phones and tablets.” He also stated that there is no connection between the timing of the Nokia announcement and Google’s VR news.
Missing The Train?
Sometimes, though, the news that there’s no news is news. Since Google’s Daydream VR announcement, we’ve been getting a steady stream of emails from companies large and small, letting us know that they’re jumping on the Daydream train, and how.
This is not at all surprising. What Google is doing with Daydream is essentially taking the Gear VR model of that’s-actually-pretty-good-VR-and-wow-it’s-mobile and blowing it wide open by removing the tight integration restrictions that Samsung and Oculus maintained. Now, with the Daydream reference designs, we should see a deluge of smartphone makers rolling out Daydream-compatible handsets and companion VR HMDs and controllers.
And Nokia is not going to be one of them.
We’ve written about how smartphone makers need to innovate to stand out from the throngs of far too similar devices, and one of those ways is to go into VR. That’s been the big Android buy-in, and now Google has pushed that even further. With its Lumia line, Nokia’s biggest differentiator was producing great hardware that ran Windows Mobile. Then Microsoft took the line over. Let’s assume that Nokia can still make killer hardware, but its devices are going to run Android now, not Windows 10 for mobile.
Therefore, Nokia dropped one of its two main selling points (insert “Windows 10 for mobile is the opposite of a selling point” dig here) and failed to add a major new one--one that most of its competitors will now leverage, most likely.
Why? There could be a couple of reasons. It’s possible that Nokia, intensely focused on relaunching and making new devices, just didn’t get the memo about Google’s VR plans. It also may think that VR simply isn’t worth pushing into--admittedly, we know little about Nokia’s marketing plans for its new devices. Maybe it wants to tackle the enterprise space instead of the consumer one, for example, in which case VR would be a fool’s errand.
What we do know of Nokia’s plans is that is has “conditionally” bought back its naming rights on feature phones (the agreement should close H2 2016), and it will be also be making Android-based smartphones and tablets. And it won’t be dabbling in VR.