Less than two years after putting the pieces together for a business unit to serve the digital health space, Nokia is re-evaluating the status of that business.
In a brief statement, Nokia said it has initiated a strategic review of its Digital Health business, which is part of Nokia Technologies and that the review “may or may not result in any transaction or other changes.” The company added that the patent business, brand partnerships and technology licensing operations that also fall under Nokia Technologies are not part of the review.
Nokia formed the business unit in 2016 after acquiring Withings for $190 million, which gave it a foothold in largely consumer-focused hardware for the digital health space. In addition to products such as scales, smart watch activity trackers and blood pressure monitors, Withings had proprietary apps for Apple iOS and Google Android devices and open application programming interfaces to encourage developers to create apps compatible with its devices. That portfolio was largely unchanged when Nokia launched the products under its own brand in mid-2017, calling its line-up the “most comprehensive line of connected consumer health products in the market.”
At the time of the Withings acquisition, Ramzi Haidamus, then-president of Nokia Technologies, called the expansion in digital health “an exciting new chapter in the history of Nokia Technologies.” Haidamus left Nokia a few months later. In October of 2017, Nokia took a $164 million write-down on the digital health unit based on projections for the business, Reuters reported. A Nokia spokesman told Reuters that the company “[remained]confident in the potential of our digital health business” and that it believed “we have the assets, the brand and the innovation capabilities to succeed.” Around the same time, Strategy Analytics noted that Chinese wearable maker Xiaomi was accelerating its position in the wearables market and had beaten out both Fitbit and Apple; those three manufacturers accounted for most of the market at the time.
Nokia is in the midst of a massive re-structuring in the wake of its 2016 acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, and in addition to the strategic review of the digital health unit has also begun cutting jobs, with up to 425 positions reportedly to be cut this year in Finland.