Nokia Replaces Its CEO, Hires Microsoft Exec

This one doesn’t come as a total surprise: Nokia has replaced its CEO. Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo is on his way out, and he’s being replaced by Stephen Elop, head of Microsoft’s Business division. This will be the first time someone from Foreign (from Nokia’s perspective) will lead the company, but some fresh, outside blood may be just what the doctor ordered.

The crazy thing about Nokia is that overall, the company is still doing pretty good. Even after all these years, I, and with me many others, still consider Nokia’s regular phones to be the best money can buy. Nokia’s feature phones are built to last (I still see people happily using their 3210s and 3310s), and the company has played a crucial role in spreading GSM technology and affordable phones to every corner of the globe – and all the benefits that has brought both first and third world countries. We keep talking about Apple, Google [phone-wise], and the likes as being special – but their impact on the world is negligible compared to Nokia’s.

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo has been with Nokia for a staggering 30 years, the last four of which he was the CEO. Nokia is still doing very well on the feature phone front – it’s the booming smartphone market where Nokia is being kicked around the room by RIM, Apple, and Google. In addition, Nokia just can’t seem to get a hold of the US market.

It’s up to Stephen Elop to get Nokia back on track on both these issues. Elop currently works for Microsoft, and will officially join Nokia on September 21. Him being from outside Finland is kind of a big deal, and as such, during today’s press conference, Jorma Ollia, Chairman of Nokia, emphasized Elop’s cultural sensitivity and his awareness of Nokia’s special heritage. It might be hard for some to understand, but when a large and proud national company hires a foreigner as CEO, it always causes friction – the same thing applies to major Dutch companies.

“I also recognise, as Jorma mentioned, that I have a unique responsibility,” Elop said during the press conference, “The critical relationship which exists between Nokia and the society of Finland. So in the weeks and months ahead I have a great deal to learn about Nokia, but also about Finland. And that has already begun. The one thing I will say is that process has been greatly supported by my heritage as a Canadian. Canada and Finland share the Arctic Circle, and that will hold me in good stead as I move forward!” Elop will move to Helsinki shortly.

As for what Elop intends to do with Nokia, he remained fairly tight-lipped. “It is way to early to make comments [about changes],” he said, “The one thing I will say is that the process through which I will go, one of deep listening, recognises that I believe the challenges that Nokia face are well known within the walls [of Nokia] and the answers are also well known. My job is to surface those, to make sure we are dealing with them efficiently and are moving the company forward.”

Here’s to hoping Elop manages to get Nokia back on track in the smartphone business. Nokia has made some of the best phones in history, and I’m sure there’s enough innovation and class wandering the minds of Suomi’s finest to make a big impact in the smartphone market.


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