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Handheld Technology

Nokia attempts a healthy revival through Withings

Nokia has long been in an unhealthy state, but a new acquisition could see the former Finnish giant start a health kick and get back into shape. Nokia Technologies – one of the units Microsoft didn’t acquire almost two years ago – has announced its plans to acquire French wearable technology company Withings for €170 million [$191 million].

“We have said consistently that digital health was an area of strategic interest to Nokia, and we are now taking concrete action to tap the opportunity in this large and important market,” Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said in a statement. “With this acquisition, Nokia is strengthening its position in the Internet of Things in a way that leverages the power of our trusted brand, fits with our company purpose of expanding the human possibilities of the connected world, and puts us at the heart of a very large addressable market where we can make a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives.”  

“The Nokia vision of creating beautifully designed products that blend seamlessly into the everyday lives of real people echoes exactly the same sentiment; we have a solid shared ground to build on,” Withings CEO Cédric Hutchings wrote in separate announcement.

That Withings has been snapped up isn’t particularly surprising. It was one of the earliest companies to get the right mix of tech and aesthetics into watches and has a strong brand in the space. But the fact it was Nokia who made the acquisition was an unexpected move. Given the dramatic slowdown in sales of Swiss watches and the fact sales of smartwatches have overtaken their analogue counterparts, an acquisition by a watchmaker akin to the Fossil/Misfit merger would have been a more obvious scenario.

In a way, Nokia’s latest move mirrors Microsoft’s own Nokia acquisition; a large company needs a shot in the arm to catch up in a segment it doesn’t really have a foothold in, so it buys a decent company in the space.

Images of what Nokia’s own-brand smartwatches would have looked like [the project was cancelled post-Microsoft acquisition] have previously been leaked online, but any future devices are likely to stay in the analogue style the French company is known for. But it’s more likely Nokia see value and potential in Withings’ growing range of health-focused and IoT products - sleep-trackers, thermometers, scales etc. - over a few watches.

Could 2016 be a good year for Nokia? HERE maps has been sold off, the pricey-but-high-quality Ozo 360-degree camera could be a hit with film makers, the rumoured C1 smartphone is likely to drop this year, and who knows, the new health kick could see the company re-establish itself in the consumer space. Or Withings could become the next Nokia.

 

Additional reading:

Fossil/Misfit merger shows the way ahead for wearables

TAG Heuer’s move into tech is no revolution

The watch industry shows no fear of Silicon Valley

Microsoft and Nokia: The fallout of a calamitous collision

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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