Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Nov 30, 2015

Nokia eyes 're-emergence' of its brand, with China as priority

BEIJING / LOS ANGELES - With a move into virtual reality, and China as its priority market, the formerly dominant Finnish brand wants to get in frame once again.

Nokia eyes 're-emergence' of its brand, with China as priority

Nokia is set to officially unveil the Ozo virtual reality camera today (30 November) in Los Angeles, the first in a planned series of launches, with China next in line come December.

According to Boon Lai, chief marketing officer and vice president of marketing at Nokia Technologies, who came on board just last month from Philips, Ozo will first be presented in closed-door meetings to some of China's government officials in Beijing.

When Microsoft acquired Nokia in 2013, it created the 200-person Nokia Technologies division, tasked with providing advancements in innovation development and patent licensing. However, 90 percent of the tech giant's overall business still comes from its Nokia Networks unit, which sells broadband infrastructure and software services.

Under the terms of the sale of its devices business to Microsoft, the Finnish giant is not allowed to manufacture smartphones until the end of 2016.

And even if Nokia did get back into the consumer-facing handset market, it would be a "bad idea", as Risto Siilasmaa, chairman of Nokia Corporation and F-Secure, revealed during this year's Slush startup conference held in Helsinki.

"The consumer handset business has become structurally unattractive," he said. "With over 500 Android vendors in the world, a crowd of companies offering a product that has a black screen and silver rim... what’s great about the mobile phone business now?"

If Nokia enters it again, it should not do "what 500 companies are already doing, but do it in an innovative way," Siilasmaa realised. "Sometimes you just have to go through a complete restructuring, put some sort of vision to it, then fight."
 
Nokia Technologies is considered Nokia's internal startup division, and "we don't have a hard and fast strategy yet, but we want to be very fast-paced," Lai said in an exclusive interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific.

Lai is leading this startup division's branding, design, marketing and communication "in line with the overall transition of the Nokia business", which he shied away from characterising as a demise or a failure.

"It is a re-emergence of the brand, and a re-interpretion for the VR era," Lai said. "To the general consumer, the Ozo is a boost for Nokia's overall brand perception. If you think about our original 'Connecting People' tagline, which served us well for mobile phones, we are still doing so but now in a different way."

Conceived at the Finnish brand's R&D facilities in Tampere, the Ozo (see below) is positioned as a B2B product that has "game-changing features such as live monitoring and rapid panoramic playback", Lai said. This will be relevant for professional content creators, movie production houses and advertising agencies.
 

"Think of occasions where an immersive 360-degree view would be ideal, like a trackside experience during live sports broadcasts, or a school lesson educating kids about the other side of the world, or buying a complicated product like new furniture for a house," Lai explained.

It may also well be a new advertising and sales format or content solution, he said, pointing to applicable examples from the New York Times distributing more than one million Google Cardboard viewers for sponsored VR content from GE and Mini, as well as Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts integrating VR experiences into worldwide sales efforts.

Weighing less than 10 pounds, the spherical camera resembles the eye of a mosquito. It captures stereoscopic 3D video through eight synchronised shutter sensors and spatial audio through eight integrated microphones (see below). Software built for the Ozo enables a 195-degree field of view per lens, each spaced out so the distance between lenses is about the same as the distance between two human eyes.
 
 
The Ozo can be compatible with existing VR viewing hardware such as head-mounted displays from HTC, Oculus and Samsung, "dramatically simplifying content production at all stages" according to a press release for its soft launch. 
 
So what, you ask? The real innovation is how the Ozo removes the need to pre-assemble computer-generated, simulated footage but conjures up real-time, panoramic views with no obvious lags. 
 
To Nokia, Ozo represents a comeback for the brand. As Guido Voltolina, head of presence capture at Nokia Technologies, put it, "5G-ready broadband [from Nokia Networks] is all very good, but that technology is not very visible. If we don't make any [physical] product, people will forget our brand."
 
If we look back to history, the Finnish used to say, “Finland lives on its forests”, and if we may add, "also on Nokia”. The original company founded Finland’s first wood pulp mill in 1865. It soon added paper to its product range, and in the 1920s rubber factories joined in.
 
In the ’50s, an electronics division was set up, though it made a loss for its first 15 years. Then in the late ’70s, Nokia and television manufacturer Salora combined forces to develop mobile phones as we know it.
 
As an indication of the progress made in this sector, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was famously pictured in 1987 using the latest handheld Nokia at that time to contact the Kremlin.
 
Indeed, Nokia wishes to stay within sight and not fade into history.

"We are used to seeing startups pivoting when they determine that their current direction will not enable them to win," Siilasmaa said. "It is not as common for large global companies to do that."

And with good cause too—if it is difficult and risky for small companies to make changes, it is many times more challenging for large ones, he said. "Nevertheless Nokia has pivoted over the last three years in a more fundamental way than most startups will ever try," he added.

 
Nokia's booth at Slush 2015

 

Related Articles

Just Published

20 hours ago

Converse opens sustainability-minded retail space ...

An experimental retail location, Renew Labs Fitzroy, showcases the footwear brand's creativity, co-creation, and "inclusive ideation towards a more sustainable future".

20 hours ago

This film about a dancer will make your heart soar

Don't miss 'The dancer', from BNZ and Colenso BBDO, a gorgeous film for anyone who's ever felt isolated and then found their tribe.

21 hours ago

Rebel Wilson stumbles upon happiness in Fiji

An amusing global campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi NZ follows the Hollywood actor as she finds herself being reacquainted with beautiful surroundings.

22 hours ago

Superunion Asia develops new identity for World ...

The shop's creative strategy was to reverse the viewpoint of the audience by showing the game from the ball's eye view, capturing the energy and skill of the game.