Nokia smartphone chief resigns

Anssi Vanjoki, head of Mobile Solutions for Nokia, who earlier this year was made responsible for reviving the Finnish firm’s ailing high end handset play, tabled his resignation on Monday. The shock announcent came just three days after Nokia revealed that it is to replace CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo with Microsoft executive Stephen Elop.

Vanjoki, who has more than 20 years at Nokia under his belt, took on his new responsibilities on July 1st this year, marking the occasion with a gung-ho blog post about his intentions to steer Nokia back to the top of the smartphone business. “I am committed, perhaps even obsessed, with getting Nokia back to being number one in high-end devices,” Vanjoki said at the time, conceding that this would prove more than a little challenging. “Achieving this will require performance and efforts over and above the norm,” he said.

Shortly afterwards, Nokia reported a 63 per cent drop in Q2 profits, with its problems in the smartphone sector chief among the culprits for the poor performance.

Now, less than two and a half months after taking on his new role, Vanjoki’s fire appears to have been extinguished. “I felt the time has come to seek new opportunities in my life,” he said, in a statement released by Nokia. “At the same time, I am one hundred per cent committed to doing my best for Nokia until my very last working day. I am also really looking forward to this year’s Nokia World and sharing news about exciting new devices and solutions.” Vanjoki has a six-month notice period.

His departure is sure to raise questions over the compatibility of his vision with the incoming CEO Stephen Elop, currently head Microsoft’s Business division. Vanjoki’s decision might also be interpreted as a personal judgement on the achievability of the task he was set. Nokia’s decline in the top end of the market has been well documented, with RIM and Apple making key gains, as well as manufacturers such as HTC developing smartphones based on the Android operating system.

Meanwhile analysts have raised questions about new Nokia CEO Elop’s ability to take the firm forward. Elop’s software expertise, and prior roles with Macromedia/Adobe demonstrate the direction Nokia’s board feels the company needs to follow, but the handset business must be maintained. And this is an area in which has has little experience. “Balancing this requirement with the need to move Nokia forward in new areas may prove a difficult challenge to manage effectively,” said Tony Cripps, principal analyst at Ovum.

One comment

  1. Avatar Steve Bell 13/09/2010 @ 6:41 pm

    Two of the most outstanding, but often overlooked, strengths of Nokia over the last 20 years have been its continuity of management and deep sense of collective direction. These have resulted in Nokia growing and becoming the number one handset brand globally. A supply chain and design process that have enabled the lowest cost for India, China and Africa, and helped the cellular industry move from 20% penetration to 70% in less than 10 years, are no mean feat! During this time Nokia was also hailed for its innovation, design and user interface. The tight management team strategically outmaneuvered Motorola, kept the Korean competitors at bay and forged some of the most powerful relationships in the industry. Yet now the iPhone and Blackberry phenomena have started the process of unraveling Nokia. The aggregated knowledge that this management team had is beginning to seep away. Nokia revealed that it is to replace CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo with Microsoft executive Stephen Elop. This has been followed by the loss of Anssi Vanjoki who has been instrumental in so many of Nokia’s handset successes and was seen as the potential savior of the Smartphone category. It is probable that these departures are the first of many, as the raison d’être of the company shifts under a non-Finnish leader. It is also likely that the reality of the new converged world of the Mobile Internet will cause many to question Nokia’s ability to scale the heights it formally claimed.

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