July 14, 2024

Nokia’s Chief Technology Officer Departs

PARIS — The struggling Finnish cellphone maker Nokia said Thursday that its chief technology officer had taken a leave of absence and would be temporarily replaced by head of the company’s research center.

News of the departure of Richard Green, an American who joined Nokia only last year from Sun Microsystems, came as Standard Poor’s cut Nokia’s long-term credit rating for the second time this year.

Nokia said Mr. Green had taken a leave “to attend to a personal matter.” Paivyt Tallqvist, head of media relations at the company in Espoo, Finland, said there was “no specific timeline” for his return.

Until his return, Mr. Green will be replaced by Henry Tirri, head of the Nokia Research Center, she said, adding the change will have “no impact on our product strategy or our product launches.”

Earlier, however, a Finnish newspaper reported that Mr. Green was unlikely to return because of disagreements over strategy. Without citing its sources, the Helsingin Sanomat reported that Mr. Green was unhappy with management decisions, including abandoning plans to introduce devices based on the MeeGo smartphone operating system that had been under development with the chipmaker Intel.

Nokia remains the No. 1 producer of cellphones globally, but its market share has been sliding. At the premium end, it has been losing ground to Apple’s iPhone, the BlackBerry smart phones from Research in Motion and devices using Google’s free Android software.

At the cheaper end, phones from companies like ZTE of China and Micromax of India have been winning ground, as have so-called no-brand manufacturers — small Chinese companies — which have been wining sales in India and China Africa, Latin America and Russia.

At the end of last month, Nokia said that mobile phone sales in the second quarter would be “substantially” below a previous forecast of €6.1 billion to €6.6 billion, blaming difficult conditions in China and Europe and lower than expected average selling prices and device volumes.

Stephen Elop, the former Microsoft executive who became Nokia’s chief executive in September, plans to win back lost ground by switching to Microsoft’s Windows Phone software from Nokia’s own Symbian platform. That switch is expected to take place at the end of this year or early next year.

The alliance with Microsoft was announced in February and has been seen by some analysts as a possible precursor to a more formal tie-up between the two.

The company’s shares price Thursday was down slightly at midday in Helsinki. For the year to date, the stock has plunged 44.2 percent.

On Thursday, Standard Poor’s cut Nokia’s rating by one notch to BBB+; three further downgrades would classify the company’s debt as junk. Another agency, Fitch Ratings downgraded the group this week to BBB-, just one a level above non-investment grade status.

As it tries to lift sales, Nokia also has been trying to trim costs. It said in April that it would eliminate 12 percent of its global work force, or 7,000 jobs, to help save €1 billion by the end of 2012. In a leaked memo this year, Mr. Elop had compared the company’s predicament, trying to catch up with Apple and Google, to that of a man standing on a burning oil rig at sea.

All this has made the company more vulnerable to a takeover — potential suitors mentioned recently include Samsung Electronics of Korea, Chinese groups and private equity firms.

“I think Nokia will play defensively until the Windows phone ramps up, and then it will push to find a slot in the business end of the market, stressing compatibility with personal computers,” said Ilkka Rauvola, an analyst at Danske Markets in Helsinki.

The appointment of Mr. Tirri is seen by some analysts as a return to basics, and a focus on chips, motherboards and transmission technology. He has been at the company since 2004 and is also a professor of computer engineering at the Helsinki University of Technology. His resumé highlights a host of publications on subjects including information modeling, neural networks and data mining.

Mr. Green reported directly to the chief executive. Previously he was executive vice president at Sun Microsystem’s software division, where he had broad responsibility for Sun’s software business, including services, sales, product and business strategy, and product development. Mr. Green could not be reached for comment.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/technology/10nokia.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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