Microsoft's Stephen Elop Now Nokia CEO

Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop is stepping into a new role as CEO of Nokia, which seeks to compete more aggressively in the U.S. market against the likes of Apple iPhone and Android.

Stephen Elop, Microsoft Business Division president, is stepping down to take the CEO reins at Nokia. According to a note on the phone maker's Website, Elop will assume his new position Sept. 21. His resignation from Microsoft, where he spearheaded the release of Office 2010, is effective immediately.

Nokia's current president and CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, will step down Sept. 20.

"I am writing to let you know that Stephen Elop has been offered and has accepted the job as CEO of Nokia and will be leaving Microsoft," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote in a Sept. 9 e-mail to company employees. "Stephen leaves in place a strong business and technical leadership team, including Chris Capossela, Kurt DelBene, Amy Hood and Kirill Tatarinov, all of whom will report to me for the interim."

Ballmer added: "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."

Microsoft's partnership with Nokia extends back to August 2009, when the two companies announced that mobile versions of Microsoft Office would be preloaded onto Nokia smartphones, followed in time by other applications such as Microsoft SharePoint. Nokia had also begun work on optimizing Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for its devices, allowing more streamlined direct access to e-mail and personal information.

But the two companies' smartphone operating systems also compete on the broader market. Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 reached its release-to-manufacturing milestone Sept. 1, with the first devices widely expected to hit the market in either October or November. Nokia is also apparently prepping new smartphones for release this fall, including the Nokia N8.

Despite its strong international position, though, Nokia never managed to gain a beachhead in the United States that would allow it to seriously challenge the Apple iPhone or Google Android, considered the top two franchises in this country's consumer smartphone space. A September research note from IDC suggested that Nokia's share would continue to dip through 2014, even as the company maintained its position as the world's No. 1 smartphone platform worldwide.

"I am extremely excited to become part of a team dedicated to strengthening Nokia's position," Elop wrote in a Sept. 10 statement. "I am confident that together we can continue to deliver innovative products that meet the needs of consumers."

Nokia's own statement hinted that Elop will be driving a larger transformation.

"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 the company's success," Jorma Ollila, chairperson of the Nokia Board of Directors, wrote in that Sept. 10 missive. "The Nokia Board believes that Stephen has the right industry experience and leadership skills to realize the full potential of Nokia."

In addition to Microsoft, Elop has also held positions at Adobe, Juniper Networks and Macromedia.