Analysis: Nokia's new CEO - who is Kallasvuo?

Summary:A look at the new head of the world's largest phone-maker...

A look at the new head of the world's largest phone-maker...

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo has been in his new job for one week. He is one of mobile's most powerful men and he'll be following in some very impressive footsteps. But who is he?

After more than a decade of leading the world's largest mobile phone company, Jorma Ollila stepped down from his CEO role this month (he is now chairman at Shell) and handed over control to 52-year-old new boy Kallasvuo.

Unlike Ollila, Kallasvuo has a legal background, graduating in law at Helsinki University and joining Nokia initially as corporate counsel. But that's where the differences stop.

Both are of a similar age, both are Nokia career men - Kallasvuo since 1980, with a short sabbatical in 1981, Ollila since 1985 - with both men coming to the phone vendor after jobs in the banking sector. Their career paths even mirror each other: both Kallasvuo and Ollila progressed through Nokia via jobs heading up the all-important 'Mobile Phones' business unit and the position of CFO. They even share hobbies – tennis and politics, apparently.

With Ollila credited as being the man that turned Nokia around from a sprawling, wellie boot-selling conglomerate to the world's biggest handset provider, Kallasvuo has a hard act to follow. Kallasvuo will have the support of his predecessor as he takes over though. Ollila will remain as Nokia's chairman of the board, working a couple of days per week.

The pair have a long history of co-operation. During his tenure Ollila relied on a number of key execs charged with helping him get Nokia back on its feet. Of that group, only Kallasvuo is still at the company.

With a long and parallel history, it is tempting to see Kallasvuo as Ollila Mark II. While it is widely expected that he will try to follow in Ollila's still-warm footsteps, looking to build market share and trimming the operational fat, OPK has already made his own fair share of headlines.

He's already announced the company is likely to be more acquisitive and look to enter into more partnerships. He has also attracted his own fair share of headlines by neglecting to pay tax on some luxury goods and attracting a €31,000 fine.

And while Kallasvuo is doubtless aware of the intense scrutiny that will dog anyone taking over from the revered Ollila, he says he won't let it bother him. "Mr Ollila is a hard act to follow. But I am not looking back, I am looking forward to the tasks and challenges ahead," Kallasvuo told the FT recently.

Kallasvuo certainly seems to be a man not afraid of talking big. In recent interviews, he has been positioning the company outside the mobile phone business - as convergence brings more and more technologies onto the humble mobile, Nokia is lining up to become a consumer electronics, not a pure-play mobile, company.

After all, Nokia is now the largest manufacturer of cameras. Why not the future 800-pound gorilla of MP3 players or TVs (though it has already entered and exited the latter area once before)?

Kallasvuo takes the reins at a crucial point in the company's history. The N-Series of multimedia phones is winning plaudits; Nokia's decision to get involved with dual mode (VoIP and mobile) devices looks to be a wise one; and the recent debut of the 770 - a mini-tablet computer with no cellular connectivity, running on Linux - is an interesting departure for the company, getting the blood of gadget freaks pumping.

Kallasvuo will also inherit Nokia's problems - the US being one of the most notable. Kallasvuo's experience will come in handy here, as he's previously headed the company's US division. During his States sojourn, Kallasvuo managed to win back crucial market share but since his departure, Nokia has once again slipped into second place, behind Motorola.

Topics: Mobility

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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