Top 5 Candidates for Nokia's Exec Shakeup

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is gearing up to make some big changes to its executive team, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal this week. The Finnish company recognizes the need for a massive overhaul to revive its struggling handset business, but is now mulling the question, which execs need swapping out?

Top of mind for Nokia is a new head of operating systems, head of North America, and lead for research and development. That means that the execs currently occupying those slots are likely headed for the chopping block.

That could include Mary McDowell, head of Nokia's handset unit; Niklas Savander, manager of the markets group; chief development officer Kai Oistamo; services lead Tero Ojanpera; or Henry Tirri, who leads Nokia's long-term research at R&D centers across the globe.

Nokia is not letting on who their replacements might be, but Light Reading Mobile has its own suggestions on the operating system front:

1) Robbie Bach, former president, entertainment and devices division, Microsoft
Pulling a former Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) executive like Bach makes the most sense for Nokia, given that Elop has experience working with him and that Windows Phone 7 may be the most likely OS for Nokia to adopt. (See OS Watch: Will Nokia Embrace WP7?)

What makes Bach more attractive, however, is that he -- like Elop -- has learned from past mistakes in mobile, namely the failed Zune and Kin devices. He could advise Nokia on how to pull themselves out from the bottom. (See Has Microsoft Missed Its Mobile Moment?)

2) Andy Rubin, head of Android, Google
Scoring Rubin, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Android chief, would be a huge coup for Nokia, which has been pressured to adopt Android as well. The pressure was especially on after the fourth quarter, when Android surpassed Symbian Ltd. in global market share for the first time in 10 years. (See Android Dethrones Symbian Globally.)

This makes a Rubin a hard get for Nokia, but one that would certainly be game-changing for the company's OS ambitions.

3) Andrew Lees, president, Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business
If Bach says no, Lees would make a great backup hire. He has the software talent Nokia needs and the Microsoft connection to make WP7 an effective part of its OS portfolio.

4) Michael Abbott, VP of engineering, Twitter
Abbott, the man credited with developing Palm Inc. 's webOS, jumped ship from Palm when rumors of its pending acquisition by HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) were gaining credibility last year. He has since served as VP of engineering for Twitter Inc. , where he builds Web-based apps and services. Abbot has the credibility Nokia needs, not to mention experience in a markedly similar situation.

Palm, a once-thriving OS, decided to add Windows Mobile devices to the mix in 2006 when its market share started to dwindle. That ended just three years later when Palm developed its own webOS and eventually was acquired by HP. It remains to be seen if the multiple-OS strategy works better for Nokia, but recruiting the man who reinvented Palm's software could help Nokia go down the same path. (See HP to Buy Palm for $1.2B.)

5) Judd Bowman, president and CEO, PocketGear
Bowman heads up massive independent app store PocketGear, which recently relaunched as a white-label business, but before that he founded Motricity Inc. . The startup, a mobile data services provider, works with all the major wireless operators in the U.S., partners Nokia desperately needs. (See PocketGear Goes White Label.)

At Motricity, Bowman grew the company to $100 million in annual revenue. He knows what it takes to work with the wireless operators and create compelling experiences with mobile data. Thanks to PocketGear, he also knows the app store world inside out and has solid relationships with mobile developers. He'd bring a fresh, startup-minded perspective to Nokia, a company that needs to modernize and think outside the box.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:13:32 PM
re: Top 5 Candidates for Nokia's Exec Shakeup

Bloomberg reports that Steve Ballmer will broaden his executive shakeup, looking to add product managers with engineering backgrounds...


So with Ballmer and Elop both looking for fresh talent, where's the better place to be -- at Nokia or Microsoft?


sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:13:29 PM
re: Top 5 Candidates for Nokia's Exec Shakeup

That's a tough call. But if you're smart and working at a successful competitor, looks like you'll have a few options for a job change.

Do you know anything about how successful Samsung's bada has been? I was thinking that'd be another possible OS candidate for Nokia, although it's not available in the US, where it needs to focus.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:13:25 PM
re: Top 5 Candidates for Nokia's Exec Shakeup

Obviously Nokia already made their announcement, but the two candidates from Microsoft that were listed were not good candidates.  Another OS at Nokia is not the answer and WP7 the bottom of the list if there was one.  Microsoft has lost the mobile market because of their own ignorance product.  The OS is buggy and crashes; I know plenty of people with a WM phone and they constantly crash and this is on various hardware.  Microsoft always wanted too much for a license as they view it as a threat to the desktop rather than something to compliment it.


Why Robbie Bach is a poor choice.  How did he learn from past mistakes with the Kin and Zune?  What did Microsoft replace them with that was successful?  Kin was dead, Microsoft dropped it and that is the end of Kin.  The Zune, never caught on and where was the successful version?  It is hard to learn from your past mistakes when you didn't follow up with a success.


Lees is also a poor choice.  He is already in the mobile side and a non-compete could cause issues especially since he has roadmaps and inside knowledge.  Nokia wouldn't need an inside man to get WP7 if they wanted it.  Microsoft is more than happy to license it to anyone that wants it.


WP7 is not a success and many users have left and won't be back.  6.x was out way too long and when people leave and you decide to change the OS and break backwards compatibility, it is a dead OS.


Android is a poor choice because you have several low budget manufacturers in the mix.  Hard to charge a lot for a phone when the low-end guys will beat you every which way.


Bada is a poor choice because what does Nokia really get out of it?  Just now Nokia is making MeeGo and Symbian^3 app compatible.  Bada would just make a mess of things.  Nokia will get Symbian^3 ironed out with PR2.0 and will have a good footing.  MeeGo will still be seen on higher-end phones.


Nokia has been slow to listen to the customers and needed to fix software issues far faster.  I have reported many issues to Nokia and it just seems to go nowhere and they kept building upon bug after bug.  Symbian^3 fixed some of them, but in the built-in apps, they bugs remain as the apps were not a rewrite.

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