Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) fall from its place of dominance in the mobile phone space has been well documented, both here and elsewhere. Once the leading name in the cellular phone market, the company finds itself today struggling to come to grips with a world where mobile computing represents the new norm and smartphones dominate the competitive landscape.

However, after it seemed like the market had given it up for dead, Nokia's shares have shown renewed signs of life over the last several weeks, rising an astounding 25% last week alone, fueled in no short measure by the supposed success of its recently launched Lumia 920 smartphone. Thanks to its partnership with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) , whose Windows Phone software powers the device, it now seems that Nokia might finally have won itself a seat at the table in the burgeoning smartphone market.

And although this seems encouraging, the competition has never been fiercer in the smartphone space. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) still sit comfortably atop the smartphone market with their dominant iOS and Android operating systems, respectively. However, a win from Nokia could help usher in the Windows Phone as a viable third option.

All this amounts to Nokia's shares looking tantalizing from one angle, with its seeming recent successes, but also fraught with uncertainty and risk. In order to help investors crystallize their thinking on the beleaguered smartphone giant, the Fool recently published a special research note on Nokia, which covers all of the essential information investors need to understand when looking at the Finnish smartphone maker. To introduce our readers to the product, we included a free excerpt from the report. If you find this compelling, you can just click here to access the report in its entirety. Enjoy.

Stephen Elop joined Nokia in September 2010 and made headlines a few months later with his legendary burning platform internal memo that didn't pull any punches about the state of Nokia. Elop wrote: "The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable."

That memo was the blueprint for the controversial moves taken by Elop and his actions over the past two years. He abandoned Nokia's obsolete Symbian platform and stopped development of Nokia's successor operating system, Meego, in order to tie Nokia's fortunes to the unproven Windows Phone ecosystem. These were not popular decisions, but in my opinion, they were the correct ones given Nokia's alternatives.

It was clear that Nokia had to join an ecosystem and could not keep going out on its own. Its options were to become one of many handset manufacturers cranking out Android devices, a choice that would have likely led to substantial volume and minuscule profit. Or it could take the higher risk, but potentially more lucrative path, of establishing its leadership position in the nascent Windows ecosystem. $250 million of platform support payments each quarter from Microsoft sweetened that pot.

Turning around a large, once-successful company requires a sensible strategic vision and the ability to make the tough choices. I applaud the decisions that Stephen Elop has made in his first two years at Nokia.


Andrew Tonner owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.