Elop shows some fight at last, addressing Nokia’s neglect of Asia
The start of June was a nightmare time for Nokia, which endured a dire profit warning, the loss of its CTO, and a report saying that it would be eclip
Published: 22 June, 2011
Nokia took part in CommunicAsia for the first time in many years, introducing new models specifically tailored for the region. EVP Colin Giles said: “It’s a hugely important market for us. We introduced our first phone specially designed for the Asian market 14 years ago. It was small, had a full graphics display and featured many Asian languages from Chinese to Thai to Bahasa. We have not looked back since.” In March, the firms said it planned to open a manufacturing facility in Vietnam to make low end handsets, investing about €200m, and it promises “further sizeable investments” in the future. It also makes low end models in Brazil, China, India, Hungary, Romania and Mexico.
Such expansion in emerging economies where smartphones are starting to infiltrate will be critical if Nokia is to avoid the fate predicted for it by investment bank Nomura, which believes Samsung will take the number one smartphone spot during this quarter, ending a 15-year unbroken reign by Nokia. Nomura even thinks Apple could overtake Nokia as well in the high end space, during the third quarter, and HTC could match its share by year end. No other researcher has yet forecast Nokia to lose its smartphone lead in such a short period of time, but with two end-of-life operating systems, and many months to wait for WP7, it has little to offer in 2011. Elop’s task will be to ensure that, if it does slip off the top spot, it will get it back rapidly once it launches its new ranges – and that will be impossible to achieve if he does not renew the company’s focus on Asia and other emerging economies.
Nokia CTO Rich Green goes on leave of absence:
Nokia suffers almost daily blows to its turnaround hopes, and the latest is the recent departure of CTO Rich Green, who is taking an unspecified leave of absence and will be replaced for now by Henry Tirri, head of Nokia Research Center in Silicon Valley.
The company insisted the absence was temporary and for “personal reasons” and that it will have no effect on expected product plans or launch timelines. However, the mystery surrounding the departure bred all kinds of alternative explanations, most focusing on Green’s reported split with CEO Stephen Elop over software strategy. While Green was brought in a year ago by Elop to bring a new approach to software, it is believed that, at that time, the plan to support WP7 had scarcely been mooted and the focus for next generation products was still MeeGo. According to Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, citing two unnamed sources, Green wanted to retain a prominent role for MeeGo, but was overruled by Elop – who last week said the web-focused platform was “never viable” as it was insufficiently mature.
If these reports are true, it is strange that Green has not just resigned, but if, as the Finnish papers suggest, he does not return, he will be seen as a loss and a significant wasted opportunity for Nokia. He was a rare injection of new blood at the senior level and hugely experienced, having been software chief at Sun. But his role clearly became less central and influential once the decision was taken to rely on a third party OS – although Nokia will certainly have input into the evolution of the WP7 platform and its own user interface, Microsoft remains in the driving seat.
Also, Green’s key expertise, based on his history in Java, was in cross-OS software frameworks, which were absolutely central to Nokia’s strategy a year ago, but have now been sidelined along with Symbian, MeeGo and the cross-OS Qt framework. Nokia has gone for an old-fashioned approach of backing a single OS and integrating it tightly with its hardware and apps, rather than the policy favored by former CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, of seizing the initiative from Google and Apple by spanning as many platforms as possible, making the OS choice subservient to the Nokia brand and web services. This led the firm to acquire Trolltech, the owner of Qt, to work actively in mobile Java and Eclipse environments, and to initiate close alliances with Adobe and others.
Elop himself, speaking at the Open Mobile Summit in London, was focusing on Nokia’s stronghold in mass market phones, and said this would remain a key focus. "We have not announced specifically what that means in terms of technology, in terms of platform. But watch this space," he said. He also said a key element of the WP7 strategy will be to bring the OS to lower end handsets. "Windows Phone as its first entrance strategy was at the high end," he said, as reported by Dow Jones. "It's very much a part of what we will contribute to Microsoft to make sure that Windows Phone comes in other price points as well."