Regional Nokia team embraces 'open' management

update Local offices now more empowered to execute on strategy, Singapore-based exec reveals, adding that no headcount loss expected in region from Microsoft partnership.

update SINGAPORE--Nokia's local teams welcome the recent management changes, an executive revealed, adding that the Finnish phonemaker’s partnership with Microsoft will not impact headcount here.

Vlasta Berka, general manager for Nokia Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei said Wednesday the new leadership team at the company's headquarters in Espoo, Finland, is "significantly more forthcoming, open and honest". He was speaking at a media session here to launch the Nokia E7 smartphone targeted at business users.

The internal team, he noted, found Nokia CEO Stephen Elop's "burning platform" memo "confronting but also more exciting".

Berka explained that the local team is excited because it is now more empowered in terms of execution capabilities. This, however, also means that there is greater accountability for business performance, he pointed out.

According to him, the company's partnership with Microsoft where Nokia will adopt the Windows Phone 7 platform for its future smartphone devices will affect employee headcount globally, but it is too early to specify the extent of the job cuts.

That said, Berka's team--covering Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei--will not be affected as most employees are in sales and marketing roles.

Continued commitment to feature phones, emerging markets
Despite the new direction in smartphone devices, Berka said Nokia is still focused on its feature phone business for the emerging markets.

The company sees a large untapped market and wishes to "connect the next billion" people with low-cost devices, he said. "What we're talking about is connecting the next billion users to the Internet and content to empower their lives."

The company's commitment to emerging markets is reflected in its restructure, added Berka. Elop announced on Feb. 11 that starting April, the company will be separated into two business units--Smart Devices and Mobile Phones--which will operate independently. Mobile Phones is the division targeting the feature phone segment.

Aside from developing hardware for feature phones, Berka said the company is also investing in software for the lower-end devices. "While we are all excited about smartphones, the market for feature phones has probably four or five times more users and continue to be [a larger market] for the next few years," he explained. "So we are investing very heavily in the content there."

An example of an app geared toward feature phones is the Ovi Life Tool, added Berka. The app has been used by Indian users for weather forecast as well as to learn English, he said.

When asked what Nokia is doing to counter the emergence of cheap handsets from Chinese phonemakers, Berka said Nokia will be releasing a portfolio of devices at different price points this year.

Berka also noted that the transition to Windows Phone 7 for Nokia's high-end devices does not mean that support for the Symbian platform will cease. The company is expected to ship another 150 million Symbian devices in the years to come, which will bring the number of Symbian devices to half a billion, he said.

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