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Microsoft's Nokia deal: Modeled on Apple comeback?


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    Nokia's had some memorable devices throughout its history; it's likely that one of your first mobile phones was from their catalog. Click through this slideshow to look back some of its most-famous. Here, two young Chinese women working for Nokia stand ready to help customers with questions they may have about the company's mobile phones at a shopping mall in Beijing 26 March 1999.

    - STEPHEN SHAVER/AFP/Getty Images

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    A photo dated 17 February 2000 of a Nokia moble phone which is able to access Internet.

    - OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images

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    Nigel Rundstrom, Vice President of Nokia Mobile Communications Japan, shows off the company's new mobile phone, DoCoMo Nokia NM502i in Tokyo, 02 March 2000. The 111-mm-toll, 44-mm-wide, 18-mm-deep and 77-gram-weight NM502i, equipped with IrDA port, can send and receive e-mails as well as accessing the Internet through NTT DoCoMo's iMODE service.

    - TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

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    A model display Nokia's latest mobile phone 6610 with Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) at the Nokia Connection 2002 in Singapore 17 June 2002. The Nokia 6610 GPRS mobile phone has a feature of MMS which messages can be send with digital images and stereo FM radio.

    - ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

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    Finnish vice-president of Nokia image service Juha Putkiranta poses 06 September 2002, in Marseille, holding the new Nokia 3650 video mobile phone (L) and the new 3510i mobile.

    - BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images

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    A man talks on his mobile phone past an advertisement of Nokia's handphone in Singapore, 29 August 2003.

    - ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

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    A model displays the new Nokia 7610 camera phone, with a 4X digital zoom and a 65.000 colour display during a presentation at the CeBIT 2004 computer technology fair in Hanover 17 March 2004.

    - MARCUS BRANDT/AFP/Getty Images

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    A model displays the new Nokia 7600 camera UMTS phone at the CeBIT 2004 Computer Technology Fair, 18 March 2004 in Hanover.

    - DAVID HECKER/AFP/Getty Images

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    Paul Lim, Vertu's assistant sales manager display the world's most expensive mobile phones in Singapore 13 August 2004. Despite their hefty price and relatively limited functions, sleek handcrafted phones manufactured by Vertu, an independent unit of wireless communications giant Nokia, are becoming sought-after status symbols in Asia.

    - JIMIN LAI/AFP/Getty Images

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    A model displays a Nokia 3230 handphone at the CeBIT 2005 information and telecommunication technology fair in Hanover 09 March 2005.

    - DAVID HECKER/AFP/Getty Images)

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    Niklas Savander, senior vice-President, Business Devices and Enterprise Solutions at Nokia holds the new Nokia E61 (R) and the Nokia E70 mobile phones at a press launch at Cafe Royal in London 12 October 2005.

    - Alessandro Abbonizio/AFP/Getty Images

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    A fair hostess presents the Nokia 7380 mobile phone of the 'L'Amour Collection' of Finnish mobile devices company Nokia, 08 March 2006 on the CeBIT fair grounds in Hanover.

    - MARCUS BRANDT/AFP/Getty Images

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    Nokia introduces the 'N-Gage' mobile phone, shown in this handout photo, on November 4, 2002 in Munich, Germany. This new device from Nokia, which combines a video game console with a mobile phone, is one of seven new products unveiled by Nokia at their Mobile Internet Conference in Munich.

    - Nokia/Getty Images

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    A Nokia N92 mobile phone seen at CeBIT on March 9, 2006 in Hanover, Germany.

    - Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

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    The newly-launched Nokia N95 camera phone is displayed at the Las Vegas Convention Center during the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show January 9, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nev. The device features integrated GPS, a five-megapixel camera, 30 frames per second video capture, an MP3 player, and internet radio and e-mail capabilities.

    - Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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    The new phone Nokia N97 is pictured during an opening session of the Nokia World 2008 congress on December 02, 2008 in Barcelona.

    - LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images

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    A picture taken on October 21, 2010 shows Finland's mobile phone maker Nokia's N8 smartphone at Nokia flagship store in Helsinki.

    - MARKKU ULANDER/AFP/Getty Images

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    The Nokia Lumia 800 Window Phone on display at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 10, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nev.

    - David Becker/Getty Images

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    The the new Nokia Lumia 920 (L) and 820 Windows smartphones are displayed during a joint event with Microsoft on September 5, 2012 in New York City. The new Nokia phones are the first smartphones built for Windows 8. Analysts see the new phones as Nokia's last chance to compete with fellow technology companies Apple and Samsung in the lucrative smartphone market.

    - Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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    A employee demonstrates the photo capabilities of the Nokia Lumia 1020, a Windows Phone with a 41-megapixel camera after its unveiling in New York City July 11, 2013.

    - TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Microsoft announced today that it has reached an agreement to buy Nokia's phone business and patents for $7.2 billion. The software giant has been trying, with limited success, to become a relevant player in mobile age by selling some of the hardware, too. Analysts say, despite the deal, Microsoft will likely continue to struggle against competitors Apple and Samsung. Though, for Microsoft, in the short-term, that may be enough. 

"Absolutely they are trying for third best," said Richard Windsor, the founder of RadioFreeMobile.com. "But the critical point is that third best is plenty good enough. The mobile smartphone market is huge and there are still plenty of rewards to be won."

Many of those "rewards" might be found in the developing world, where, for years, Nokia phones dominated the market. 

"[Nokia] has been the strongest brand in many countries from China to India to Southeast Asia," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at the technology research firm, Gartner.

Skeptics  point out that Microsoft and Nokia have been partnered for three years -- without much success. But industry watchers say Microsoft's purchase may, in fact, eliminate some of the barriers to advancement. If the partnership ends,  so too does the need to consult Nokia as Microsoft forges ahead with its mobile strategy. 

"Now it's all under one roof," said Rob Sanfilippo of research firm Directions on Microsoft. "There'll be probably one main manager that will have the power and the control to make final decisions in the best interests of Microsoft."

About the author

Noel King is a reporter for Marketplace's Wealth and Poverty desk.

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