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Former Nokia boss Ollila: Stephen Elop was second-choice CEO

I WANTED to flog high-end smartphones. Operators stopped me – former CEO

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Former Nokia boss Jorma Ollila, who made the Finnish company the global leader in mobile phones for a decade, has published his memoirs: Mahdoton menestys ("An Impossible Success").

Ollila stepped down as CEO in 2006 to become non-exec chairman - but now wishes he'd stuck his oar in more. He writes that Nokia had become unresponsive to the threat posed by Apple and had lost its confidence.

Ollila also says Stephen Elop was originally the Board's "second choice" when appointed as CEO in 2010, but doesn't name the first choice - merely that the candidate was in his 50s and withdrew for personal reasons. Interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat, the former CEO was asked if moving to Windows Phone was a mistake. Ollila replied in the affirmative:

"This is true. We were not successful in using Microsoft's operating system to create competitive products, or an alternative to the two dominant companies in the field," reports the paper. He added that in a choice between the Microsoft OS and Android, Windows Phone had been a unanimous choice.

Ollila says there were several reasons for Nokia's spectacular decline, from No 1 handset-maker with a market share over 35 per cent, to the cheap sale of its handset division this year to Microsoft.

The company had 1,000 staff in Silicon Valley looking for shifting trends, but when the market demand changed to produce easy-to-use touchscreen tablet computers, whose capability as "phones" came second, it failed to deliver the goods. He also blames operational mistakes, saying the company had lost its confidence and ability to execute.

Yll uutiset cites Ollila as saying that Nokia had wanted to focus on high-end, pricey smartphones – just as Apple did – but that mobile operators, "Nokia's main sales channel for the company, preferred to have a range of cheaper phones to offer their customers".

Nokia had actually prepared for years for the day when handhelds would be primarily touchscreen computers rather than phones. It began work on a Linux in 2002 and released the first tablet in 2005. By 2009 the tablet could perform telephony. But it failed to produce a range of competitive products based on the platform just as Android, a free alternative subsidised by Google's massive advertising business, was taking off.

When it shopped Meego around potential licensees, nobody wanted to know.

The Finnish papers have plenty of coverage of the memoir, which starts with Ollila's childhood and ends in 2011. Ollila stepped down as chairman in September. ®

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