It may have felt like the coldest summer every experienced by the men and women left jobless in Oulu, Finland, when Microsoft acquired Nokia's handset division and more than 12,000 employees were made redundant. But BusinessOulu CEO Juha Ala-Mursula tells Tech Times that Oulu may be in the early months of enjoying its second miracle.
The Miracle of Oulu, as Ala-Mursula describes it, occurred around the turn of the last century. Oulu is a northern city of 190,000 that rests at the edge of the Baltic Sea across from Sweden. Nokia had just moved in and the income the handset maker generated spread from Oulu, beyond the Northern Ostrobothnia region where it is located, to the rest of the country.
"The rest of the country was in a depression, but we got so much work and talent," Ala-Mursula tells Tech Times in a phone interview. "Our society got so much income from taxes that enabled us to buy nice schools, city halls and roads. People in the south of Finland called it the Miracle of Oulu. In such a short time, so many new things came to the city."
In the years just before Microsoft shelled out $7.2 billion to spur its handsets division with Oulu know-how, Nokia was already suffering from a decline in shipments of its low-end mobile devices. To Ala-Mursula, a former Nokia director, Nokia's gradual adoption of Microsoft's mobile operating system began to foster the conditions that made the handset maker enticing to the Redmond, Wash., tech company.
It wasn't hard for outsiders to paint Microsoft as a corporate machine that was devoid of human emotion, due to the sheer numbers of people that were laid off after the acquisition was finalized in April and then made jobless a few months later when the tech firm began its slimming exercises. Though the acquisition wasn't perfect on the ground, Ala-Mursula described both Microsoft and Nokia as "good corporate citizens."
"We don't have hard feeling about this -- there is no anger," Ala-Mursula tells us. "We are sorry and sad about what took place, but we understand. However, the worst is now over."
Once again, Oulu has found itself on the front end of the tech industry's latest arc. In a green-conscious city with lanes empty enough that CEOs like Ala-Mursula can bike to meetings and with thousands of bright minds looking to continue their careers, Oulu has been welcoming the world's top players in the nascent sector of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the fifth generation of wireless communications (5G).
"When Nokia and later Microsoft decided to stop handset development and Broadcom stopped modem development, this had made [it] possible to develop something new -- and IoT is one of those new sectors," says Ala-Mursula.
The BusinessOulu CEO also tells Tech Times that his city is investing heavily in facilitating an environment for 5G deployment and testing. Oulu plans to erect a citywide platform for 5G, on which tech companies can experiment with the currently undefined standard -- with 5G's potential to exponentially increase bandwidth and transfer rates, the U.S. Federal Communication Commission recently launched an inquiry into the protocol.
So it's still there, the magic and the talent that continues to make Oulu an attractive destination for tech companies and new business. As with any arable land, it has taken a reshuffling of crops for Oulu to bear a bounty of produce -- new business is growing and its buds are starting to bloom.
"In the next five years Oulu will repeat the 'Miracle of Oulu' by expanding wireless and digitalization to new business areas," says Ala-Mursula. "Oulu is the city where people can work in inspiring, international, safe and close-to-nature environment and to create high-tech product and services without traffic jams and pollution. Oulu is the best place to grow your children."
In part two of Life After Nokia: Oulu's Second Miracle, Tech Times looks in-depth at how Oulu is working to allow devices to speak a common tongue, and we speak with the director of ARM's Internet of Things division.