It’s sometimes hard to remember, but there was a time not so long ago when Nokia had it all: a booming business, the best-regarded brand in the industry, and a seemingly limitless pool of ideas for innovative new products. With early Maemo devices like the 770 and N800 it was clear Nokia could see the direction mobile tech was heading — so what stopped it from capitalizing?

To answer the question, The Wall Street Journal takes a look back from the 1990s to the present day with some of the Finnish maker’s influential characters, including former chief designers Frank Nuovo and Alastair Curtis. An example of where things went wrong lies in the company's titanic R&D spending, which lead Nokia to amass a patent portfolio reportedly valued at around $6 billion — a portfolio that looks increasingly likely to be partially sold off. The story goes to show how hardware is only one part of the puzzle, and how competitive strength in today’s mobile market takes the right mix of software, timing, and determination.