Nokia's Howard Stringer: Stephen Elop

The big mobile-related news of the morning is the announcement that Canadian-born Microsoft executive Stephen Elop will lead Nokia as CEO, starting September 21. Previously he was COO at Juniper Networks. According the press release this morning:

The Nokia Board believes that Stephen has the right industry experience and leadership skills to realize the full potential of Nokia. His strong software background and proven record in change management will be valuable assets as we press harder to complete the transformation of the company. We believe that Stephen will be able to drive both innovation and efficient execution of the company strategy in order to deliver increased value to our shareholders," said Jorma Ollila, Chairman of the Nokia Board of Directors. 

While the specific selection of Elop may be a bit of a surprise the replacement of existing CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo is not. Nokia has been losing marketshare and mindshare for at least two years, despite its position as global leader in the overall handset and smartphone markets.

There had been indications that Nokia was looking for a North American to lead its business and help revive its fortunes here. I previously compared the company to Sony, which hired its first non-Japanese CEO in Anglo-American Howard Stringer when it felt it needed to shake things up. Elop will be the first "outside" CEO for the Finnish company. 

There's something strangely appropriate in Nokia hiring a Microsoft executive to replace OPK. Microsoft and Nokia are similar: giants and leaders in their respective markets that have stumbled and are having trouble recovering under extreme competitive pressure. 

There are some who see the move as a mistake because Elop is a "manager" and not a "product visionary." That could be a valid criticism. I'll reserve judgment because I know very little about Elop beyond his public resume.