It might be out of the smartphone business after selling it to Microsoft, but Nokia may be planning to find a niche in another area: virtual reality. The company is set to launch a VR product on July 28 at an event in Los Angeles, according to reports.
The announcement reportedly will be about a virtual reality hardware product that the company hopes will compete against established VR and augmented reality devices such as Microsoft's HoloLens, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Google-backed Magic Leap.
The report on the project appeared on the news Web site Re/code, which had reported three months ago that Nokia had a number of projects under development, including some in imaging and virtual reality. Nokia would be competing with companies such as Oculus VR, which was bought by Facebook earlier this year for $2 billion and whose first headset is due for release next year.
The upcoming VR kit would be built by the Nokia Technologies unit, which handles the company’s patents and intellectual property and was behind last year’s N1 tablet that was sold in China. Nokia Technologies issued invitations to the event on July 28 that included the words: "Nowhere/Now Here," according to the report.
Nokia’s maps business, which is reportedly on the market, is known as Here. Recent reports have said the company has signed or will soon sign a deal with Audi, BMW and Daimler to sell the mapping business for about $2.71 billion. Nokia also makes networking equipment, and is in the process of buying rival Alcatel-Lucent.
Will It Work?
Nokia Technologies, which would handle the VR venture, is the smallest of the company's three units, after Here and Networks. The three units remained after Nokia sold its device manufacturing arm to Microsoft in 2013. That transaction will likely keep Nokia from returning to the smartphone business for at least another year, meaning other inroads into the consumer hardware market might be attractive.
In fact, it might create a valuable asset for Nokia. We reached out to Dan Olds, principal analyst with Gabriel Consulting Group, who told us that a virtual reality venture might be the quickest, easiest way for Nokia to get back into the consumer space.
"In fact, it’s not far-fetched to think that with Microsoft’s Xbox and desktop platforms, they might be interested in buying whatever Nokia develops somewhere down the line," said Olds.
Nokia has not commented on the reports of its possible foray into virtual reality. The company dismissed recent stories that it was getting back into building handsets. With its assets sold to Microsoft, that would likely require the help of a partner -- such as Foxconn, which made, marketed and distributed the N1 tablet for Nokia.
"Nokia could bring a high-profile presence to VR and possibly compete with entities like Oculus Rift," said Olds. "Not many companies in that arena have the resources that Nokia does."
While that chance might exist, Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told us that the success of such a venture was kind of a long shot. "Nokia is a bit late to the party and doesn't have much of a reputation in North America for consumer marketing," said Kay. "Still, they have to do something. So, why not this?"
Posted: 2015-07-23 @ 3:22am PT
I believe that Nokia, like their revolutionizing mobile earlier in the 90s, will also do good in VR in the coming months since it is still in beta mode.