Nokia has crowned Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft employee and someone with a strong knowledge of the US software market, as its newest chief executive officer. However, the headlines aren’t all hearts and roses for Elop.
Nokia is the world’s #1 manufacturer of mobile phones, by a long shot. This is because it has a veritable uncontested leadership in a big chunk of the planet, but it’s mainly in third-world countries and some parts of Europe, where it is headquartered.
However, the phone maker has never really had the same kind of dominance in important markets like the US and UK. Its brand presence in these regions has practically fallen away since the launch of Android and iPhone.
So now it hopes Elop, who is a very rare choice as an American CEO for the company, will bring his Rolodex with him and start getting its name back into the minds of US consumers.
However, even though he has valuable experience at Microsoft, there is concern that his lack of knowledge in the mobile sector could lead to problems for the company. He is unlikely to solve one of the biggest issues for Nokia, which is a weak relationship with retailers and mobile providers in the US.
“Everyone’s talking about his U.S. experience like it’s a big asset. Well not really when you get someone with no connection to the carriers,” said Gartner research director Carolina Milanesi in a Market Watch story.
That is true to a point, but of course the thing that Nokia needs right now is a complete refresh of its operating system. Unlike almost every other phone manufacturer, Nokia uses its own proprietary platform, known as Symbian. Every other major manufacturer licenses a more universal operating system, like Android or Windows Mobile. But Symbian has become something of a relic, kind of like Blackberry’s OS.
Since Google and Apple are based in the US, they have been the most successful at captivating the US market. Finland-based Nokia has become completely out of touch. Its executive team has historically been just from that region, which leads to names like the previous CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.
But the biggest problem facing Elop as he comes in is the huge uphill battle he’ll face from day one. No one is looking for something to replace Android or iOS. Consumers are quite content with those two dominating platforms and it will take a miracle to get anyone to turn their head back to Nokia.