updated 08:55 am EST, Fri February 11, 2011
Nokia reorganizes in the wake of Windows Phone
Nokia as part of its shift to Windows Phone outlined major changes in organization. Along with moving Jo Harlow to lead the Smart Devices group, which should now handle MeeGo and Symbian as well as Windows Phone, it will put Mary McDowell at the head of the Mobile Phones group that handles basic feature phones. Niklas Savander will handle the company's Markets group, which oversees shipping and selling all of Nokia's products.
The Services and Developer Experience group, which handles services like Ovi, will be temporarily headed up by Tero Ojanpera. Design will be lead by Marko Ahtisaari and the Chief Technical Officer spot by Rich Green.
Despite rumors of a major executive shuffle, the board and most other top positions will remain intact. MeeGo lead Alberto Torres has already left as the company relegates the OS to a longer term and more experimental role.
All of the position changes should take effect April 1.
CEO Stephen Elop added during a question and answer session after the financial meeting on Friday that there would be "substantial reductions" both in Nokia's staff and in its research and development, since it no longer needs to work as much on other operating systems and will eventually phase out Symbian entirely. Both 2011 and 2012 are considered transition years. Nokia will still remain a Finnish company, Elop said.
The executive explained in the session that Nokia had decided against Android. Although it had talked with Google, it warned of a lowest common denominator effect. There would be "difficulty differentiating" in Android, even with the option of a custom interface, Elop said. He also warned that Google's emphasis on a free OS and on lower cost phones created a "commoditization risk" that would have hurt Nokia's average selling prices and profits.
Too much of the value would be in Google's hands, he added.
MeeGo wasn't moving fast enough to be the backbone of a smartphone strategy and would instead be an "opportunity to learn." Rumors have surfaced that the company may just have a MeeGo tablet in 2011 and will have dropped the N9 smartphone altogether. Elop did say tablets could use a Microsoft OS as an option.
The decision to use WP7 is likely to cause a rift within the company from those loyal to Symbian or who may face job cuts. Carriers had nonetheless been publicly urging Nokia not to side with Android since it would have led to a strictly two-sided competition. The new strategy, if successful, could see at least three and more likely four major smartphone platforms with comparable market share, adding Windows Phone to Android, BlackBerry and the iPhone.
Google could face a public image hit as Nokia has directly accused the search firm of hurting the phone business and devaluing custom software experiences. Android has been free in a bid to profit off of search ad revenues, but this along with low hardware requirements has led to even competent Android phones costing as little as $150 off-contract.