It had to be done
Considering Microsoft has hardly set the world on fire with its mobile efforts in the past few years, it's a counter-intuitive place for Nokia to look for its next CEO. But that's precisely what it has done.
Stephen Elop (pictured below), the former head of Microsoft's business division, has been named the new President and CEO (what's the difference? - Ed) of Nokia, and will start on 21 September. He is the first non-Finn to be put in charge, and replaces Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who also leaves the board and gets €4.6 million to help him get over it.
Kallasvuo has carried the can for Nokia completely missing the smartphone revolution initiated by Apple and the iPhone. Viewed in this context, appointing a CEO whose primary experience is in the software market makes more sense. Nokia's handsets are still fine, it's the software they run on that has been rendered obsolete by Apple, and subsequently Android.
Elop was in charge of Office at Microsoft, which is at the core of a strategic alliance with Nokia. He was also in charge of Unified Communications, which promises to be a key technology for mobile productivity devices. Furthermore, while he was COO at networking company Juniper before joining Microsoft in January 2008, he was in charge of Macromedia - the company behind Flash - before it was acquired by Adobe and had a senior role at Adobe for a while after.
"The time is right to accelerate the company's renewal; to bring in new executive leadership with different skills and strengths in order to drive company success," said Nokia chairman Jorma Ollila. "The Nokia Board believes that Stephen has the right industry experience and leadership skills to realize the full potential of Nokia. His strong software background and proven record in change management will be valuable assets as we press harder to complete the transformation of the company."
"Nokia has a unique global position as well as a great brand upon which we can build," said Elop. "The company has deeply talented and dedicated people, and I am confident that together we can continue to deliver innovative products that meet the needs of consumers."
Elop's old boss - Steve Ballmer - has published his email to Microsoft staff on the matter, in which he seems somewhat faint in his praise of Elop's work at Microsoft: "I appreciate the way that Stephen has been a good steward of the brand and business in his time here, and look forward to continuing to work with him in his new role at Nokia. Please join me in wishing Stephen well. Steve."
So, if you consider that Nokia needs someone who is good at managing change, and desperately needs to raise its software game, Elop isn't such a counter-intuitive choice. Having said that, we still don't expect to see Nokia look to Windows Phone 7 for help, rather it will redouble its efforts on MeeGo, and Elop's presumed close relationship with Intel will help there.