Nokia should fire Elop and the board should go too - Jean-Louis Gassée

By Graeme Burton
04 Jul 2012 View Comments

Stephen Elop ought to be fired as the CEO of Nokia and the rest of the board should join him, according to Silicon Valley veteran Jean-Louis Gassée (pictured).

Further reading

"I think that Elop will have to go, but I also think that the board also needs to be renewed with people who have an understanding and working knowledge of the mobile industry," Gassée told Computing in an exclusive interview.

Gassée built up HP in Europe during the 1970s before joining Apple in 1981, where he served as a senior executive from 1981 to 1990. He also founded operating system company Be Inc, and is now a partner at venture capital company Allegis Capital.

Double Osborne

Gassée criticised the company for allowing Elop to effectively ‘Osborne' its products not once, but twice: first in his infamous, Gerald Ratner-like "burning platform" memo in February 2011; and, more recently, when Microsoft pre-announced Windows Phone 8, which effectively obsoleted Nokia's new range of Windows Phone 7 devices months before the new mobile operating system will be formally released.

"Microsoft can do that with new versions of Windows; IBM used to do that in the olden days. But I'm shocked that the board of Nokia allowed Elop to do that," said Gassée.

The company was banking on burgeoning sales of its Windows Phone 7 devices this year – especially over the next two quarters – to arrest the company's sharp decline in sales and profitability.

Current mobile devices running Windows Phone 7 won't be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8 and apps built for Windows Phone 8 will not be backwards compatible. A point upgrade, though, will provide many of the features of Windows Phone 8 to users of the older operating system.

While acknowledging that Elop inherited a company facing many looming challenges, Gassée questioned whether the knowledge and experience Elop offered are appropriate to the role.

"He has zero experience in terms of what makes a smartphone maker tick. And what is his experience in supply chain management? Zero," said Gassée.

He added: "He did a very good thing, which is to tell everyone that it is an eco-system ‘play', not a platform play. That was very insightful. But then he reveals the plans without implementing them. Everyone knew that Symbian phones were dead-enders and Nokia's partners – the carriers – ran away from Symbian in large numbers."

In his "burning platform" memo of February 2011, Elop likened the company's Symbian platform to the platform of a burning oil rig in the North Sea from which the company needed to escape.

However, the memo, published in an internal blog, was leaked to the press.

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