Nokia needs a Steve Jobs doppelganger

Assuming that Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, the embattled CEO of Nokia, does the right thing and quits, the company could have a much overdue new leader within days.

Despite Kallasvuo's somewhat mild protestations that rumours of his forthcoming demise were harming the company, he, and his management team, have wrought spectacular damage to Nokia's fortunes since he was appointed CEO in 2006.

An example of his consummate failings is seen with Nokia's attempts to break into the North American market. Having pledged to make the region a top priority when he became CEO, Kallasvuo admitted last week that the company had been too big and slow to compete in the challenging U.S. market.

Only recognising this blunder after four years as CEO--and having spent over 20 years working for the company--must indicate to shareholders that Kallasvuo needs to be replaced by someone that will take decisive action.

The company, which has failed to publicly state whether Kallasvuo has the support of the board, is already said to have interviewed two potential candidates for the role, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Hopefully, it will be someone with more strategic vision and marketing flare than the existing 57-year-old CEO, a former company lawyer and CFO of Nokia.

The incoming CEO faces considerable challenges: pre-tax profits are in a downward spiral, the average selling price of each handset has fallen to €61 compared to €64 a year ago, and confusion over which operating system Nokia will push for smartphones--Symbian or MeeGo--is causing mounting uncertainty. This is without somehow rejuvenating Nokia's smartphone ambitions that have been completely overwhelmed by Apple's iPhone.

But finding a suitable candidate that can outsmart Steve Jobs is problematic. Gartner believes there are not many obvious contenders who have the in-depth industry understanding together with the ability to pacify shareholders--and the all important "knowledge to recognise bad products and strategies, and the courage to kill them."

News of Kallasvuo's "impending" departure boosted Nokia's share price by over 2 per cent--a telling reaction from the stock market.--Paul