The Country That Sold The World Mobiles

What do they know of Finland, who only Nokia know...

It’s 2000. Helsinki. In a jostling queue at a late night snack bar, the sort of place that would only attract inebriates, the in-need-of-company and the sleep-deprived, things are getting tense. Voices are raise. A shoulder is pushed. “What are they arguing about?” “They are WAP developers,” comes the reply, as if that answered everything.

This, then, is a country where even (perhaps especially, given the above anecdote) the late night delinquents are immersed in mobile technology. As Nokia celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, and Nokia Networks looks set to swallow Alcatel-Lucent to add to its previous consumption of Siemens Networks, and of most of Motorolas wireless network business, it’s tempting to write up the story of Finland as the story of Nokia. Even more tempting given the heroic (anti-heroic?) rise and fall of the mobile phone part of Nokia. And triply tempting given Nokia’s central status not just to Finland’s economy and political nexus, but to modern Finland’s sense of itself.

And of course, you can’t write about mobile in Finland without also, and nearly all the time, writing about Nokia, but there’s a lot more to mobile innovation that what gets fed into Espoo House.