Death of a Ringtone: The Rise and Fall of Nokia
Not so long ago, the 13-note ringtone of a Nokia handset was the de facto soundtrack of the mobile revolution. The world’s largest cell phone maker for more than a decade, the company was a leading innovator in both design and technology that helped bring wireless life to American high schoolers and rural Africans alike.
These days, though, it seems as if that iconic jingle is in danger of being switched to silent. Nokia announced yesterday that it would cut 10,000 jobs following one of its worst quarterly results in company history. Moody’s has downgraded its bond to junk status. Samsung passed it in sales last month. And Business Insider’s Henry Blodget had begun speculating that Nokia might face bankruptcy in the near future.
It’s a sad state of affairs for the pride of corporate Finland. But perhaps the most fascinating thing about Nokia’s rise and fall isn’t so much what comes next, but rather how it demonstrates history’s habit of repeating itself in the worlds of business and technology.
Before it became a dominant player in mobile, Nokia was a shapeless conglomerate that had manufactured everything from paper pulp to rubber boots to cables. In the 1980s, its CEO decided to try and latch onto the boom in consumer electronics, including handsets, which led it to team up with a pair of Finnish telecoms on an undertaking that would change its fortunes, as well as the future of the cellular industry.