Nokia Chairman to Resign in 2012

Jorma Ollila, Nokia's chairman, says he will step down in 2012, giving way to even greater transformation for the cell phone maker as it struggles to right its course with a new CEO about to take the helm.

LONDON-Signaling that transformation is the theme of the day at Nokia, the company's chairman, Jorma Ollila, has announced that he will step down in 2012.

Ollila's plan to leave the company in 2012 comes as Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's executive vice president of mobile solutions, announced plans to leave the company in six months, and Nokia just named Microsoft executive Steven Elop as the successor to Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who is stepping down as president and CEO. Ollila's announcement caused a buzz amongst the 3,000 attendees at the Nokia World 2010 event here.

Each of the men leaving Nokia is credited with having helped make Nokia the largest cell phone maker in the world. However, each of them also has been around during a period of decline for the company-decline to the tune of Nokia's stock price sliding 70 percent over the past three years, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

And though many see the series of departures as a bit of upheaval for Nokia in a time of increasing competition from Apple, Google and other smartphone makers, others view it as an opportunity. In particular, it is an opportunity for Elop to come in and make his mark more immediately. Ollila's departure will be sure to hasten that process.

Meanwhile, among the moves he made before stepping down, Kallasvuo named former Sun Microsystems executive Rich Green as the chief technology officer at Nokia. Elop will rely on Green for consultation on the technical direction Elop will take the company in. And Mary McDowell, who runs Nokia's Mobile Phones unit, will work closely with Tero Ojanpera, who runs Nokia's Services arm, to add value to lower-end devices through offerings such as Ovi Life Tools, Ovi Mail, Ovi Store and Nokia Money.

In a statement from May, after just announcing a reorganization, Kallasvuo said, "In addition to extending our leadership in mobile phones, we are decisively moving to respond faster to growth opportunities we expect in smartphones and mobile computers. Nokia's new organizational structure is designed to speed up execution and accelerate innovation, both short-term and longer-term. We believe that this will allow us to build stronger mobile solutions-a portfolio of products and integrated services that connect people and enable new ways of communicating, sharing and experiencing mobility."

Green told eWEEK the company is serious about claiming not only sales and volume leadership in the smartphone market-which it has-but also reclaiming technology and feature leadership from the competition.

As a start on this journey back to the lead, Nokia announced four new smartphones at its Nokia World 2010 show on Sept. 14: the N8, the C6 and C7 siblings, and the E7 business-oriented device.

The N8 provides a high-end entertainment experience and camera with 12 megapixels and Carl Zeiss optics. Nokia offers a richer Ovi Store experience-starting with the Nokia N8-that includes a friendlier look and feel, and more popular and unique apps and games. And Nokia announced the latest beta release of free Ovi Maps with new pedestrian and motorist features.

The new Nokia E7 is the ultimate business smartphone, Vanjoki said. With Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync on board, the Nokia E7 provides direct, real-time and secure access to corporate e-mail inboxes and other personal applications. Equipped with a 4-inch touch-screen display featuring Nokia ClearBlack technology for improved outdoor visibility and a full keyboard, business users will find the Nokia E7 is the perfect shape and size to work on documents, review spreadsheets, or read and edit slides. For corporate peace of mind, a combination of business-grade security solutions is available.

Nokia also announced the Nokia C7, a sleek social networking smartphone that enables users to get live updates from social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and keep track of new e-mail from their Yahoo or Gmail accounts directly on the home screen. The Nokia C7 features a 3.5-inch active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) display and a stunning combination of stainless steel, glass and soft edges.

The Nokia C7's sibling, the new Nokia C6, is a small and stylish smartphone. Sporting a 3.2-inch AMOLED display with full touch capabilities and Nokia ClearBlack technology for improved outdoor visibility, the latest Nokia C6 adds the benefits of social networking and mobile entertainment in a stainless steel and glass design. Users can stay connected to e-mail, access millions of tracks through Ovi Music, and download apps and games from the Ovi Store.

So when Elop takes the helm at Nokia on Sept. 21, he has a base of new systems to start with. However, Nokia's issues have to do with a lot more than the fit, finish and features of its new phones and operating systems, but also as much to do with its relationships with operators and with getting more developers to create applications for the Nokia platform-particularly in the United States, for both of these issues. Elop has his work cut out for him.