Leader: Nokia's new CEO

The right man for the job? Probably...

The right man for the job? Probably...

The departure of Jorma Ollila as Nokia CEO has been in the pipeline for some time. Yesterday's announcement that he will be replaced by Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo - currently head of the company's mobile division and previously a CFO there - is a surprise only in the sense of the naming of the successor, not Ollila's exit. And then only mildly so.

Kallasvuo, like Ollila, is a company veteran. He's actually been there a bit longer but is nowhere near as well known.

Together with a handful of other executives, all recently departed, Kallasvuo and Ollila helped turn Nokia from a sleepy Finnish manufacturer into the leading force in mobile communications. It was some turnaround.

But the main question today isn't about the history, which has been well documented but about the future. Can Kallasvuo improve Nokia's position? Or even keep it on an even keel, which in itself is no easy job?

While many readers of this article will have an attachment to Nokia as a provider of personal technology - still around a third of mobile phones come from the Finnish vendor - the question of the company's overall stature is likely to be more dispassionate. If Nokia isn't a leader in, say, network equipment or enterprise communications platforms, will there be anyone outside of certain telcos or IT departments who cares? Won't we all just use someone else?

The answer is yes, though let's think of what else Nokia brings to the table. It is not only up there as one of Europe's two biggest tech success stories - the other is SAP of Germany - but it is a third way of doing things in a sector dominated by the Asians on one side (especially handset makers that have taken an early lead in 3G and taken some Nokia market share) and the Americans on the other (especially Motorola).

Far be it for us always to understand Nokia's ways - we don't - but there is no denying it has its own distinct culture that is of value to the world of mobility.

We should never have expected Nokia to go for a big name outsider as the next boss. That is not their way, nor necessary given the pluses continuity has broadly brought.

Kallasvuo, though relatively unknown outside his industry, looks like a good bet to continue the advances of the past 15 years. But he has a tough act to follow.