Nokia Sets New Mobile Plan in Motion even as Smartphone VP Jumps Ship

by Matt Klassen on September 15, 2010

It’s strange to be talking so despondently about a company that paradoxically sells more mobile devices worldwide than anyone else yet faces an uncertain future about its viability in the mobile smartphone market, but I truly wonder if Nokia will be able to pull out from its current tailspin.

Earlier this week I reported on the dismissal of Nokia’s President and CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo and his subsequent replacement by former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop. I surmised that given that all other things remained the same the appointment of Elop as CEO would do little to reverse Nokia’s fading fortunes, as Elop himself seems to know little about how to create, manufacture, or market successful mobile devices.

But inevitably things don’t stay the same for long, as Nokia has officially unveiled a new trio of smartphones, has publicly stated its intention and plans for building a competitive smartphone line-up, and has seen the departure of a key member of its team. But if you thought that most of this was good news, think again.  

In the wake of Elop’s appointment as Nokia’s new CEO, it turns out that Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president and general manager of the Mobile Solutions division and a member of Nokia’s Group Executive Board, is stepping down after apparently being snubbed for the vacant CEO position. While it’s always difficult to lose key members of a team, especially during the sort of transitional period that Nokia currently finds itself in, this particular departure may sting more than most, or perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise.

As VP of the Mobile Solutions division Vanjoki was, for all intent and purposes, the chief of Nokia’s smartphone line-up. There are few in Nokia, I would wager, that knew more about the production and marketing of smartphones as Vanjoki did, but I guess since Nokia’s core problem is its spectacular inability to produce a competitive smartphone might mean that Vanjoki was the one they should have fired in the first place.

But yesterday at the Nokia World 2010 conference in London, Nokia executives weren’t about to let either Kallasvuo’s or Vanjoki’s departure dominate the headlines. Instead, Nokia officials worked hard on quashing speculation that the Finnish company’s fading market share was due either to an overly arrogant attitude about its market position or general disinterest in the smartphone revolution.

To that end, Nokia execs spoke confidently—almost defiantly—about the company’s plans to challenge both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating system for mobile market dominance, and unveiled three new additions to its slowly growing smartphone family, the E7, C7 and C6. The former is a business oriented device while the latter two are clearly consumer-oriented products, all three of which will accompany the yet-to-be released Nokia N8, the company’s flagship smartphone device.

While I would wager that none of these three phones will reverse Nokia’s run of bad luck, I have a feeling that they will have played a small part if Nokia executives are able to turn their ship around. You see, Nokia has a larger market base of regular cellphones and ‘feature’ phone users than anyone else, and if these easy-to-use smartphones help people transition from older devices to smartphones, Nokia will have a veritable bonanza on its hands. If it can’t wean its customers off older technology, it’s hard to say what the future will hold for Nokia.

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