OPK on the way O-U-T?

Twitter buddy Jonathan (@atmasphere) Greene alerted me to a Wall Street Journal post today that claims Nokia is actively shopping for a new chief executive officer.  If true, this shouldn’t come to anyone as a surprising development.  The current CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo (OPK), has been under fire for over a year now while Nokia has struggled against stiff competition, largely from Apple, RIM and various devices running Google’s Android.

OPK had been groomed by previous CEO Jorma Ollila for just that position, assuming the helm of the world’s largest cell phone manufacturer on 1 June, 2006.  It seemed the right decision at the time: from there until 2008 Nokia’s stock value rose as innovative devices were released even while the company reinvented itself with extreme reorganizations.

But the first two years of a new regime typically benefit from residuals of the one prior.  2008 to 2010 can’t be credited or blamed back to Ollila’s term.  Rather they provide the measurements for OPK’s performance, and the numbers aren’t good.  To get an idea, check this chart comparing Nokia’s stock to Apple’s over the past 5 years.  Or Nokia versus RIM.  The divergence at 2008 is remarkable… and humbling for Nokia.  And even though RIM hasn’t been exactly stellar, it’s still in the positive for the period.

Back in January of 2010 The Prodigal Guide posted an open letter to Kallasvuo, offering several suggestions to get Nokia on track in the high end.  I don’t agree with every detail but in general the list is inarguable.  I think the key recommendation was about focus, and it’s especially relevant given something OPK said to Nokia employees at a personal appearance in Texas in October 2008.  When asked if launching dozens of unique devices every year made sense (over platforming them at a higher level), Kallasvuo defended the status quo.  I remember feeling uncomfortable when I heard that.  It was an indicator that he seemed out of touch with what was working best in the mobile space at the time.

In May of this year OPK assured investors that Ovi Store’s growing download numbers provided at least one indication that the company was doing the right things.  I’m not convinced, and I don’t think too many other shareholders are either.  A turnaround is going to take more than talk, and results the past couple of years have not supported the pledges.

I have a lot of respect for Mr. Kallasvuo even now.  His professional background shows he’s no dummy.  But I think that background, largely in legal and finance, isn’t the best to serve Nokia right now.  Nokia needs a device fiend in that position.  Someone with a background equally rich in technical and marketing would be ideal.  I believe that person to be Anssi Vanjoki, named by BusinessWeek as one of the 25 most influential people on the web.

Sure, Anssi just got a promotion.  I think he could use another one.  If the rumors are true, though, Nokia is even talking to US candidates.  While hiring someone from North America to run the Finnish company would certainly be revolutionary, I think going outside instead of bringing up a current executive is a mistake in general and a disservice to Mr. Vanjoki.

As a longtime Nokia stockholder, I am keenly interested in the company making some sort of uncharacteristically dramatic move to restore confidence.  Is putting OPK out the best one?  Or can Nokia correct course without a change of top leadership?  Keep in mind that for now this is hearsay and speculation.  On that note, reader thoughts highly encouraged!

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19 responses to “OPK on the way O-U-T?

  1. We want Anssi!!

  2. I have to disagree – I don’t think Anssi should be CEO – there are too many ‘extra’ activities that come with such a role. Anssi needs to be put solely in charge of devices, and let him rock out. Whoever they pick as the new CEO needs to be someone who can stand aside and let Anssi do his thing, IMO.

    I do agree, however, that they need someone who is endlessly passionate about phones.

    • I’m with rcadden on this one. There’s gotta be someone other than Anssi who can guide Nokia at a high level and let Anssi do his thing where he is.

      I really think Nokia’s problem is that they have too many Change Resistors in top positions. Apple and Google are thriving with a culture of innovation (the rewards go to those pushing the company forward, not those who are “staying the course”), and Nokia needs to adopt the same stance.

      I’m not saying that innovation should be pursued at all costs — they need to focus on quality, too — but they need to clear the logjams and focus on making New And Shiny Things.

      As for their plan to sell huge volumes of cheap devices to developing markets, the thing to remember is that today’s New and Shiny is tomorrow’s Low End Cheap Thing. Stop wasting any money polishing turds and focus on the new stuff, and then push the old stuff into the developing markets. Summer 2011: N97 in Mud Hut Africa.

      Also Texrat, could you make this site more N900 friendly?

      • You both raise some good points.

        As for this blog being N900-friendly: I have to admit I’m mystified by that request. I specifically chose the single-column theme for that purpose, and I both read and manage it very well from my own N900. Could you offer some detail on what else could be done, qole?

      • Texrat: The font is very small and hard to read on my N900. Looking at it on my PC, I notice that I am served a completely different, probably “mobile” version, on my N900. It is one giant, screen-filling column with very tiny text. I can’t really zoom in without constantly having to pan back and forth.

        If only Tabula Crypticum looked like it does on my PC, I could zoom in on the narrow column, but for some reason, it doesn’t!

      • qole: scroll to the bottom of the page and turn Mobile View off.

      • Alas it’s not possible to select the non-mobile site when cookies have been rejected earlier, and it doesn’t seem to be possible to clear the “reject cookies from this site” flag for a particular site (on MicroB), without wiping cookies for all sites which is too much pain (having to reenter passwords all over the place).

        It’s all due to MicroB weakness in zooming and cookie controls. Luckily for me I like the small font, but I can see how it’s not suitable for everyone.

      • Texrat, you’re right about the switch that turns off the mobile view. But I think the “mobile view” as the default for the N900 is a bad design decision. Especially since the PC version is so tailored to the N900.

    • So… in hindsight, Ricky: would you have rather Anssi been made CEO, than Elop come in and Anssi leave?

  3. from whoever runs the company, it would be illuminating to get some clarification on
    *how the pace of development is in touch with the strategy
    *how can i get over the perception that there is still rivalry between meego and symbian (why first declare meego will power future high-end devices, and then when anssi gets promoted, he only mentions that a S^4 device is highly likely – without, btw, saying a word about whether the still unreleased N8 will have an upgrade path)
    *can nokia succeed without the success of ovi services? if not, well, exactly how is anyone expected to get excited? (mention: the PR1.2 MySMS. if i cannot trust you, why would i want to to put my trust in you providing services to me?)

  4. Congratulations on a very nice comment I’m glad I know you and best regards

  5. I have to side with Rick’s comment as well. Mr. Vanjoki while a nice idea for a candidate, should really stay in his currenly focused (new) role. Organizationally, only the CEO should walk alongside device strategy and execution decisions, but he really should serve as Nokia’s mobile evangelist and public mouthpiece.

    Looking back at things, Nokia hasn’t done bad financially at all. If you consider that there are several more players, and the incumbents when Nokia last changed CEO are all just about out of the game, or bit players, then you’d have to hand OPK some credit for not tanking the ship. Coming after such a visionary leader, its usually the case that an organization will cease being innovative and deal more with those organizational (focus) areas. Much of the past 4 years has been more (internally) about org change, and so maybe OPK gets a piece of a pass here for steering this right.

    Mindshare in light of Apple/Google/RIM is another thing. And I don’t know that Nokia could have pulled off having the CEO/evangelist to do battle on this end. I’m also not certain that a North American CEO would work here either. It will be interesting to see who/what the change would be if something happens. I’d assume that OPK stays on board until after Nokia World if a change comes quickly, before MWC if a change isn’t so quick.

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  7. I think they should keep OPK. He wasn’t the main problem, just easiest to blame.

    I say don’t lose anyone, just bring back some of the TexRat, rcaddens, and others, pay better attention and even seek more input from evangelists, and totally reinvent the PR department. Who runs that?!? Because I’d love to have a chat with him.

    Nokia’s internal rule of not mentioning competitors in a bad light, and never using them in comparisons is utter BS. Stop letting people punch you and not punch back. It is like in the streets. If I say you steal and you don’t deny it, you are an implied thief.

    Also, we need a hero, but not a Steve Jobs. I don’t even want my CEO being the biggest cheerleader. We let too many of the geeks with bow ties talk, and not enough of the geeks.

    They just need some cool, hip, regular smart guys to talk to the public. Someone that knows the words to the latest 50 Cent, Lady Gaga, Drake, and Yelawolf songs, and yet is still smart enough to explain all the misinformation. See the MarcusPSP.com stuff from Sony for background on what I mean. Some of us are hip geeks. I volunteer. :P

  8. Nokia needs someone that can debunk the falsehoods and make people believe it. The message has been delivered many times, but I, RCadden, and the many other voices don’t have the necessary credibility needed for such a large undertaking. Does that person exist? And does he have to be the CEO?

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