Nokia Shifts From Connecting People to Connecting Cars

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's been an interesting few days for Nokia (NOK), the once top-of-the-league phone maker now struggling to stay relevant.

First, it appointed a new CEO, Rajeev Suri, with a mandate to, in the words of a Nokia board member, "deliver innovations that have a positive impact on people's lives."

Then, in an apparent demonstration that it is going into overdrive to fulfill this promise, the company announced a $100 million war chest to invest in "smart car" technologies.

To be fair to Nokia, now that it has sold the phone business to Microsoft (MSFT), it can break free of the shackles of its legacy and concentrate on a whole new set of technologies that are going to typify the connected world, long after Nokia made the phrase its own.

Google's (GOOG) already stolen a march, not only with its much-heralded driverless cars, but getting leading carmakers like Audi, Honda (HMC) and Hyundai to integrate its Android operating system into their connected cars.

Nokia is taking the investment route to grab a piece of the future. Nokia Growth Partners, the $700 million venture capital arm of the company, will be managing the car fund. Top of its agenda will be to look for investments that support Nokia's investment in HERE, Nokia's smart maps platform.

While Nokia's aspirations to reinvent itself are laudable, industry watchers point out Nokia will be up against the same competitors that it faced in its phone business. Google, Microsoft and Apple (AAPL) have major plans for marrying maps with cars.

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