The Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia, which once reigned supreme over the global handset market, has finally called it quits and sold out to Microsoft for 5.4 billion euros.
After becoming the No. 1 cell phone maker in the world in 1998, Nokia briefly controlled half of the market. But the same company was forced to sell its headquarters building last year amid a worsening cash crunch. Until just a few years ago, nobody had imagined this would happen.
In the era of smokestack industries, a company that rose to the top usually reigned for decades. But in the information age, technological changes occur more rapidly than ever before, and the lifespans of businesses grow alarmingly shorter. The rise of the personal computer led to the decline of technological dinosaurs like IBM, while software developers like Microsoft and PC manufacturers flourished. But as the Internet blossomed, Microsoft had to cede its dominance to Google. Nokia's fate is just another example of how fleeting success can be in the IT age.
The Korean economy is supported by three pillars: the IT, automobile and shipbuilding industries. But Korea's shipbuilders are being relentlessly pursued by Chinese rivals, while its automakers face an uncertain future clouded by militant unions and other risks.
Nokia's glory, which once seemed guaranteed to last, faded after less than two decades. The law of entropy can humble everyone and highlights the importance of constantly pushing the limits. It is crucial to remember the lessons of automakers, shipbuilders and technology giants that reigned before us while marching forward.
Nokia once accounted for 25 percent of Finland's exports, 35 percent of its research and development spending and 23 percent of total corporate tax receipts. In some ways Nokia was Finland, and its demise has dealt a heavy blow to the Finnish economy. This shows just how dangerous it is to rely on a single industry, conglomerate or product. Korea needs to pull itself together and stay alert if it does not want to walk down that same path.