“We’re paying for the company, but in reality it’s Withings that’s going to be running the entire digital health business at Nokia.” –Nokia President Ramzi Haidamus
One of the more unusual corporate pivots has taken place over the past few years with Finnish former mobile phone leader Nokia. and has completed a circle with the seemingly friendly acquisition of digital health device and wearables developer Withings.
With the sale of its phone brand to Microsoft in 2013 and the majority acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent last year (finalized in January), Nokia seemed to reposition itself firmly in telecom networking. It retained an impressive brace of IP and international patents in the field managed by Nokia Technologies, plus licensing of its name. Nokia also introduced a successful iPad Mini clone in China, the N1 Android tablet, a virtual reality camera rig built for film studios and sold the HERE map app for $3 bn. But the company retained an interest in health tech over those years. In 2012, it started the annual Nokia Sensing XChallenge, a $2.25 million competition that is part of XPRIZE. Nokia Growth Partners (NGP) invests in the digital health sector.
We noted their below-the-radar health moves last October, and this confirms that true to the reports, Nokia had been been developing a digital health strategy called WellCare, centered on data and insights collected from wearables. WellCare will now apparently be integrated into Withings. The combination will also be competitive with Apple HealthKit and ResearchKit, which has had extensive takeup by both developers and clinical researchers–but there is plenty of room in the field. Withings retains a strong and uniquely quality design-driven identity, though perhaps not the most well known brand especially in the US, and has a small share in covetable, pricey fitness wearables. But it’s the integration and developments which will be of great interest after the expected closing in 3rd quarter this year. Two articles in Engadget (here, here) and The Verge
Updated: Mobihealthnews publishes an interview with Nokia’s president Mr Haidamus on why Withings, calling it a ‘reverse takeover’ where Withings will be in charge of expanding their health tech presence with no layoffs on either side. However, he’s a little disingenuous in implying that Nokia had no interest in digital health prior to selling their handset business to Microsoft in 2014–see the XChallenge above.