Earlier in the week, the HMD Global controlled Nokia announced that it had partnered with Xiaomi to explore a use case of Xiaomi’s home-brewed Surge S1 processor in their smartphone lineup. What is interesting is that this relationship marks the beginning of a symbiotic relationship between Xiaomi and Nokia. Ironically, we have also come full circle, in a sense.
In 2013, Microsoft acquired Nokia’s smartphone business to no avail that by December 2016, it had jettisoned all elements of the fateful acquisition. Later on, that IP was acquired by Xiaomi when they signed an agreement to pre-load Microsoft Office apps onto the MIUI base. Now, that very same IP is returning home to Nokia, as they have now tied up with Xiaomi.
An official statement from Nokia and Xiaomi read that they have tied up to “deliver the high capacity, low power requirements expected by large web providers and data center operators.”
Nokia and Xiaomi have announced that they are working on optical transport solutions for data center interconnection issues. They have also said that they will use IP Routing based on Nokia’s newly announced FP4 network processor, and will have a data center fabric solution in the works soon. In addition, the companies have agreed to explore opportunities for further cooperation, in areas such as Internet of things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.
However, what stands out here is that Xiaomi now gets access to network-related patents that Nokia owns. We have known that the Chinese smartphone makers have been eyeing the USA as a potential market for a while now. However, licensing and legal hurdles, especially with networking, have caused the Chinese OEM a lot of woes. A couple of years back, the company was forced to stop selling MediaTek based devices in India due to a patent infringement case that was filed by Ericson.
Xiaomi’s Surge S1 is an octa-core SoC which is also based on the big.LITTLE architecture, where there exists coupling between relatively battery-saving and slower processor cores (LITTLE) with relatively more powerful and power-hungry ones (big). It comprises of four Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2.2Ghz, and four more Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.4Ghz. For graphics, it uses a Mali-T860 GPU. Nokia not only stands to gain monetarily by getting the processor at a cheaper rate but also gains the software advantage that Xiaomi brings to the table, as it is very experienced with maintaining an OS and providing long term updates for it.
Carl Zeiss and Nokia
Nokia has announced that it is going to collaborate with Zeiss, in order to improve the imaging experience on Nokia smartphones. Zeiss has been making lenses for cameras since way back in World War II, so there is no doubt that they are one of the most experienced companies when it comes to making a good lens. They are well renowned for the motion picture lenses. They also make lenses for recording high-quality video. In fact, NASA has also purchased a couple of lenses from them.
Nokia partnered with Zeiss years ago to develop its ‘PureView’ camera technology used on phones like the Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020. The camera on the 1020 was especially impressive, with a 41 MP sensor and optical image stabilization. Reviewers praised the camera quality, but the camera app on the Windows Phone was lacking features and was, in fact, the biggest bottleneck to the performance of the camera. Microsoft released a few updates for it, but it was too little, too late back then.
History repeats itself
Nokia started out its journey as a pulp mill. It then went on to become known for rubber products and it later moved on to become a leader in the communications business.
In fact, during the time Nokia has stayed away from the smartphone business as it was under Microsoft, it has become a leader in network infrastructure, providing solutions for a host of companies.
The Bottom Line
Nokia has always wanted to return to the smartphone business. Even when it was forced to sell off its smartphone unit, its board remained anxious about returning to smartphones. This time around, they seem to be back in the game serious and have moved on to making clean Android-based devices.
HMD Global is the new face behind Nokia now. During the Nokia acquisition, Arto Nummela joined HMD Global as CEO-elect and transferred from Microsoft, along with 4,500 other employees to HMD Global and its partner Foxconn, which acquired an old Nokia factory in Hanoi from Microsoft. We only hope that we get to see more devices from Nokia soon, as we yearn for more devices from the two smartphone makers.