Nokia World 2010: Mobile giant will look to recapture greatness

The stage is being set for Nokia to do something great at Nokia World 2010. But with so many senior staff leaving will they have the confidence to do something radical? Guardian writer Josh Halliday sets the scene for us.

Powered by article titled “Nokia World 2010: Mobile giant will look to recapture greatness” was written by Josh Halliday, for on Tuesday 14th September 2010 05.50 UTC

At the Nokia World 2010 jamboree, the stage is set.

Billed – by Nokia – as the company’s biggest annual conference yet, a tumultuous week at the Finnish mobile manufacturer threatens to overshadow a critical 48 hours for the mobile giant looking to reverse a long term decline in profits and market share.

Stephen Elop, the Microsoft executive newly charged with turning around Nokia’s fortunes, was appointed as chief executive only four days ago, replacing Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. Meanwhile, Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president of Nokia’s mobile business, announced his departure suddenly yesterday morning.

Vanjoki, one of the company’s longest-serving executives at nearly 20 years, is thought to have been one of the internal candidates vying to accede fellow Finn Kallasvuo and, at time of publishing, is still on the agenda to address thousands of delegates in London’s Docklands later today.

But since news of his departure filtered out on Monday morning, uncertainty has loomed over Vanjoki’s keynote speech, earmarked as one of the most important in the company’s recent history.

Twenty four hours after announcing his decision to seek pastures new, Vanjoki will lay out the company’s future in the mobile market – crucially, how the manufacturer fits into a smartphone market increasingly different and more dynamic than the one Nokia established its popularity in during the first half of the closing decade.

Or: how the still-dominant company can avoid being reduced to a commodity also-ran within years.

On the commercial challenges facing the Finnish manufacturer, my colleague Charles Arthur’s post is worth digesting in full. Here’s the upshot:

“By the end of 2009, despite smartphone sales having increased by 24% worldwide according to Gartner, Nokia’s phone profits (which includes smartphones and “dumb” mobile phones) were – on an annualised basis – the lowest they’d been in the entire eight-year period, despite the revenues being the second-highest.

“That speaks of Nokia’s product being commoditised – that the average price and profit per phone sold is dropping. The question for the incoming chief executive Stephen Elop is whether that’s a satisfactory state of affairs.”

Despite this week’s annual event being all about the parading of new products, it’s likely that that the behind-the-scenes workings at Nokia over the coming weeks will provide stronger clues about the direction the company is heading in. Nick Jones, analyst at research firm Gartner, says the incoming chief executive’s hiring and firing will “give us the first clues about the type of company Nokia will become.”

For today, we have a range of product and service launches to pick over. Expect a modest family of new phones, app-based partnerships with mobile operators and more on its Symbian operating system. Substantial news on the MeeGo OS will likely wait two months for the conference in Dublin.

It is understood that neither departing nor incoming chief executive will be in attendance at London’s Excel conference centre this week, but the mobile man on his way out is under no illusions about the task ahead.

Writing on his second day in the job, Vanjoki declared: “There is no denying, that as a challenger now, we have a fight on our hands. […] I’m ready to take this challenge on, and so is the entire Nokia team.” Vanjoki leaves his post after two decades service early in 2011. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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