With the recent news of Samsung (SSNLF.PK) being found guilty of patent infringement against Apple Inc. (AAPL), there is one company flying under the radar that just might be one of the biggest beneficiaries: Nokia Corporation (NOK).
The embattled Finnish phone manufacturer has certainly seen better days, as its stock hasn't traded above $10 in well over a year. With the success of Apple's iPhone and Google's (GOOG) Android, many have written off Nokia long ago as an irrelevant also-ran in the smartphone market. Absent a successful appeal, Samsung (who relies on Android) is going to have to significantly alter its future smartphone plans, as will any other company that uses Android. So if we're keeping score at home, it's Apple 1, Android (and companies that use it) 0. But guess who doesn't rely on Android? That's right, lowly Nokia.
In hopes of turning around its struggling smartphone division, Nokia has recently gone all in with Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows phone software, which will debut its Windows Phone 8 in the near future. While Nokia not using Android was seen as a detriment in the past, this lawsuit could turn the tables for Nokia, as it will be completely unhampered by this recent ruling. The Nokia Lumia was even used by Apple during its trial as an example of a smartphone that was clearly not infringing on its content.
Though sales of Windows Phone have been slow, the upcoming release of Windows 8 should definitely provide Nokia a boost. And long-term, the company should benefit from not having been in the legal sights of Apple and should be free to continue whatever design plans it had, while companies like Samsung could have to scrap them entirely. Analyst Peter Bo Kiaer felt the Samsung ruling had the potential to be a game changer for Nokia:
"The Apple/Samsung ruling is positive for Nokia as this has the potential to change the competitive landscape [in the] short to medium term," Kiaer told MarketWatch. "Nokia has been struggling to get their smartphone foothold as Apple and Samsung dominate the market … A larger volume of shipments could provide a lift in earnings to bridge the current transition to a slimmer company. This is one of the reasons why investors see the bad outcome for Samsung as a positive [for Nokia]."
Key to Nokia's value going forward are its patents. Nokia has amassed over 30,000 patents in the last two decades, and the portfolio is valued in the range of between $5 billion and $13 billion. Given that these patents seem to be in the clear as far as infringement goes, the value of the portfolio likely rose significantly after the Samsung ruling.
But all this is for naught if Nokia's phones are not successful themselves. Nokia plans to debut its new Windows 8-backed Lumia in New York City on September 5. Depending on how the launch goes, September 5 could be looked at in the future as the day Nokia finally turned it around. It might be too much to hope the company's stock can reach the levels of old, but if Windows 8 is the success many believe it will be, getting in when the stock is at $3 could be a no-brainer.
Nokia is the largest producer of Windows Phones, so if you're optimistic about the future of Windows Phones, and Windows 8 in particular, you ought to be optimistic about Nokia as well. Technology Business Research analyst Ezra Gottheil told eWEEK that the Samsung ruling presents a huge opportunity for Nokia, although it does mean for competition, since other companies will be looking toward Windows as a platform going forward.
"Windows phones have been given a major boost, and if Nokia delivers some killer devices, it can leverage its well-established relationships with network providers," Gottheil said. " … I think this nets out as a win for Nokia, and an opportunity to become relevant again."
So finally, it looks like things could be looking up for Nokia. Though still far behind Apple, there had to be more than a little schadenfreude going around the Nokia offices upon seeing its rival Samsung on the losing end. And since Nokia has gone a different route than Android, it looks to be smooth sailing going forward, at least legal-wise. While Nokia's success is largely tied to Microsoft's, Nokia looks better today than it has in a long time.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.