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We knew that Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) was looking for a new CEO, and the Finnish telecom giant has made its choice. What's surprising is who the company picked: a high-ranking officer from the Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) machine.
Stephen Elop has been running the all-important Business division at Microsoft for a couple of years, but hardly as a resounding success. His division's sales have remained flat while the Windows segment grew by 6%. Maybe Nokia should have reached for Windows president Steven Sinofsky instead?
Be that as it may, Elop does come with a sterling pedigree. He spent nine years at Macromedia and Adobe Systems (Nasdaq: ADBE ) , and the experience of selling the Flash platform to a Java-addicted world should come in handy for selling Nokia smartphones when everybody wants Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) phones. A short stint running day-to-day operations at networking giant Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR ) is another well-fitted feather in Elop's cap -- Juniper is particularly strong in the telecom infrastructure market, and Elop probably has some buddies inside Nokia from those days.
Elop should be a much better fit for the job than outgoing CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo ever was: Elop is a technologist at heart, with extensive sales experience on the side, and he should be able to give Nokia's withering smartphone business a much-needed jolt of engineering and marketing support. Kallasvuo is a Nokia lifer, but with the training of a lawyer and an accountant. That's not the right skill set for Nokia at a time of unprecedented competition and innovation in the mobile-phone industry.
I still think Nokia would have been better off stealing Android guru Andy Rubin from Google or top technologist like Mike Lazardis from Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) . Either of those choices would have aligned Nokia with a strong and proven mobile platform, while Microsoft's efforts in the field haven't been much to write home about. But that's not exactly Elop's fault, and maybe he'll surprise me.
Will Elop scuttle Nokia's impenetrable naming scheme? (Would you rather have an N8 or a C6? Yeah, I don't know, either.) More important, will he finally land some subsidized smartphone relationships with American carriers? I sure hope so.