June 16, 2012
Death of a Ringtone: The Rise and Fall of Nokia
Not so long ago, the 13-note ringtone of a Nokia handset was the de facto soundtrack of the mobile revolution. The world's largest cell phone maker for more than a decade, the company was a leading innovator in both design and technology that helped bring wireless life to American high schoolers and rural Africans alike.
These days, though, it seems as if that iconic jingle is in danger of being switched to silent. ... And Business Insider's Henry Blodget had begun speculating that Nokia might face bankruptcy in the near future.
... Before it became a dominant player in mobile, Nokia was a shapeless conglomerate that had manufactured everything from paper pulp to rubber boots to cables. In the 1980s, its CEO decided to try and latch onto the boom in consumer electronics, including handsets, which led it to team up with a pair of Finnish telecoms on an undertaking that would change its fortunes, as well as the future of the cellular industry.
That project was the first digital telecommunications network, known as the GSM.
All of this might just sound like neat history for tech nerds. But the change to digital had profound impact on phone technology. Perhaps most importantly: It enabled text messaging. Because Nokia had invested so much money and research into digital networks, it was ready to dominate markets where it was adopted. The old mobile champion, Motorola, had grown up in the analog era and was caught flat-footed by the switch. By 1998, Nokia was the leading handset maker in the world, with more than 22 percent of the global marketplace. It would peak at around 40 percent in 2008.
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