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Nokia's No.2 bails out

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Anssi Vanjoki, widely seen as the No.2 at Nokia, has announced he will leave the company.

It means Nokia will be looking for a new head of its mobile phone division for the third time in a year. Vanjoki has led the division - which contributes most of Nokia's revenue and almost all of its profits - for just two months.

Nokia announced its first ever non-Finn CEO on Friday, hiring Canadian Stephen Elop from Microsoft to replace Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. The timing is abrupt, with the annual Nokia World event scheduled to start tomorrow.

Vanjoki heads the Mobile Solutions unit and has served on the group executive board for several years. Recent years have seen him billed as the second keynote speaker, indicating his seniority and influence at the company.

He was thought to be the leading internal candidate to replace Kalasvuo. Vanjoki said he will serve out six months notice.

Click to enlarge

Vanjoki joined Nokia in 1991 from 3M, and rose through the sales division. He ran the Multimedia unit from 2004 to 2008, where he oversaw the launch of the N-Series range and branded Nokia's smartphones as "multimedia computers" - a comparison that didn't really flatter the company after the launch of the iPhone. The unit was effectively dissolved in OPK's first reshuffle in 2007, to end the pointless rivalry between the E-Series and N-Series teams.

He took the reins of the mobile phone division - which contributes most of Nokia's revenue and almost all of its profits - following a reshuffle in April. His predecessor, former CFO Rick Simonson, had only been in the post six months.

In July Vanjoki promised a "fightback", and has been found burning the midnight oil by posting comments on obscure and unread weblogs.

Earlier this year he gave a frank assessment of the failure of the N97. Yet as he introduced the equally awful N97 Mini last year, he showed his ability to speak fluent Segmentese, the language that Nokians use to create and convey "understandable marketable entities" (in his words).

As he told Nokia World 2009, the key to the market were "style leaders" and "technology stylers" - "image seekers" and "young explorers" at the "aspirational" rather than "rational" end of the axis. Millions are spent on this sort of thing.

His frankness could also get him into trouble. At a press conference in 2007, responding to why a Nokia device looked like an iPhone, Vanjoki replied that "if there is something good in the world, we copy with pride". Apple has used the quotation several times in its counter-lawsuit against Nokia. ®

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