Nokia appoints Silicon Valley-based CTO
Henry Tirri takes over R&D agenda, replacing Rich Green, who will not return from his leave of absence
Published: 23 September, 2011
As expected, Nokia's CTO Rich Green will not be returning to the fold, after he took indefinite leave this summer. This was officially on medical grounds, but it was reported that he had been opposed to the decision to drop MeeGo - in which he was heavily involved - and center all Nokia's efforts on WP7. He will be replaced by Henry Tirri, who has been at the company since 2004.
Tirri becomes EVP, CTO and a member of the leadership team, and is responsible for setting the research and technology agenda. However, his appointment represents an end to Nokia's often ill-fated attempts to use the CTO position to introduce radical new thinking. Former CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo was keen on hiring technology leaders with expertise that was non-traditional for Nokia, in his quest to build the firm's software and web services strengths. These included Green himself, who had previously been head of Java at Sun, and Benoit Schilling, who took the CTO role after his firm, Trolltech, was acquired by Nokia for its Qt developer framework. He subsequently departed for Myriad.
By contrast, Tirri is a Nokia veteran with more traditional background in computer science, and a highly academic career including professorships at the University of Helsinki and elsewhere. His main commercial start-up was Ekahau, in the field of positioning, which has been critical to Nokia since it acquired Navteq.
Tirri also epitomizes the new Nokia because he will be based in Silicon Valley, where he has been heading the Nokia Research Center, not Finland. This reflects the efforts of current CEO Stephen Elop to improve Nokia's dismal north American performance by putting it more closely in touch with US carriers and users, and the general shift of wireless industry R&D towards the heart of computing and web development.
In Nokia's statement, it said Green had "elected to depart Nokia" and will now return to his US homeland to "pursue new opportunities". Elop's statement said: "In his new role, Henry will have the opportunity to make a greater impact and set the course for Nokia and our role in the mobile industry. The company would also like to thank Rich Green for the key role he played in assisting Nokia through a major transition."
In fact, according to Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Green made the transition a turbulent one for Elop as he wanted to retain a prominent role for MeeGo, but was overruled by the new CEO. Green is a loss to Nokia and a significant wasted opportunity, since he was a rare injection of new blood at the senior level and hugely experienced. But his expertise was in developing operating systems and cross-platform frameworks, both less important once Nokia went for a third party OS.