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Nokia. For so long, to many a phone aficionado, just hearing that name would send them into a warm stroll down memory lane; their first mobile, their favorite device, their love for the company. Things changed quite a bit once Microsoft announced its partnership with Nokia back in the days of Windows Phone 7.

For some there was absolute outrage to be had at the shock of the company’s announcement to sell its mobile division to Redmond. In an almost surreal event, Nokia managed to release a few Android phones (heavily skinned as they might have been) which raised the question: would the company try again with Google’s OS?

Things, for better or worse, are much clearer today, now that the CEO, Rajeev Suri, has officially declared that Nokia will not be returning to the mobile handset business. In a speech largely aimed at investors, much focus was given on the company’s triumphant return to profitability, its three core (remaining) divisions, and its plans for future licensing deals.

We are not looking to a direct consumer return to handsets per se”

With respect to the endless rumors of another Nokia built-and-branded mobile, however, Mr. Suri told his audience that “we are not looking to a direct consumer return to handsets per se,” [although the Nokia] “brand will return to the consumer world” via other forms in the future. “The Nokia brand is still extremely powerful and we see considerable interest in licensing. We will pursue it… in a thoughtful and considered way,” the executive said.

This suggests the Finnish company is willing to sell the right to make phones under the Nokia brand to an interested company. Chinese companies have done this in the past – one example is TCL, who is selling phones under the name of French company Alcatel. That means Nokia phones could make it back to the market (probably running Android), but they would have little in common with the devices we know right now.

Regardless of brand loyalty, or mobile OS favoritism, it’s still a bit disappointing to see the once unstoppable European giant moving on in a fashion totally alien from what mainstream consumers once knew it for. Even Microsoft itself seems eager to move on, given its recent decision to remove the Nokia branding from its Lumia phones going forward.

The proverbial flag is at half mast.