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Nokia poised for smartphone comeback

Finnish firm eyes end of Microsoft non-compete period, makes plans for 2016

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri has set his sights on the devices arena.
Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri has set his sights on the devices arena.

Former mobile-phone market leader Nokia is making plans for a return to the smartphone market it abandoned almost two years ago when it sold its devices unit to Microsoft, Reuters reported.

The Finnish firm is reportedly recruiting software specialists, testing new products and negotiating channel deals as chief executive Rajeev Suri eyes the end, in 2016, of a contractual non-compete period with Microsoft, entered into as part of Redmond's acquisition deal.

Nokia, once the clear leader in the mobile phone industry, failed to come up with viable devices to compete with Apple and Samsung, as consumers migrated to smartphones. Under CEO Stephen Elop, formerly a Microsoft senior executive, Nokia dumped its proprietary Simbian platform and adopted Windows Phone as an OS, but a weak apps ecosystem failed to woo users and the company's mobile devices unit was sold to Microsoft for $7.5bn.

Nokia has since concentrated on its telecom-equipment manufacturing business, but the company also launched an Android tablet, the N1, in November 2014 and days ago unveiled a "virtual-reality camera".

Taking on Apple and Samsung will not be easy, but Nokia still has a sizeable stock of patents to draw upon. Its R&D function will also get a boost when it inherits Bell Labs as part its $17bn acquisition of French telecoms vendor Alcatel-Lucent. Bell's researchers have won eight Nobel prizes.

In a departure from past to-market strategies, Nokia will design handsets with its brand, but will license other companies to make the phones, market and sell them, in a bid to cut costs.