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The (Mobile) Empire Strikes Back: Nokia Chief’s Strategy for Smartphone War

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo

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Nokia boss Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo has been talking about how his firm plans to fight back in the ongoing cell-phone wars–and he sees the future in the Internet. In an interview with BusinessWeek, the 56-year-old Finn is bullish about the woes affecting the company which, ironically enough, began life as a paper company back in 1865. “We’re now in a combination of several industries: mobility, Internet, PCs, media, content,” is how he describes Nokia’s reach.

So, not just a handset maker then. Nokia has pretty much the lion’s share of the cell-phone market (although for how much longer remains to be seen)–and for Steve Jobs, Nokia seems to have taken the place of Microsoft, high praise indeed from the master of Dukin’-it-out-with-my-rivals business style. Last month, Nokia posted 2009 Q4 sales of $11.24 billion–not bad for a firm that has just one laptop model, Although smartphones make up just 15% of its products, Nokia has managed to find a 40% share of the smartphone market worldwide.

Kallasvuo has also been busy buying up business that he sees as integral to the ongoing health of Nokia. Navteq for maps, Loudeye Corp. for its back catalog of music, Cellity AG for contact management and the unfortunately-named Twango Inc. for photo sharing. There’s a deal in place with Intel to help create apps, and its inhouse apps store, Ovi, handles a million downloads a day. Put that in your tofuburger and smoke it, Steve.

As well as the ongoing legal spat between Apple and Nokia, there’s a fair bit on Kallasvuo’s background. Growing up 175 miles south of the Arctic Circle, where winter daylight amounted to just four hours a day, it’s not surprising that he went south to Helsinki, where he studied law, joining Nokia’s legal department in 1980. It makes interesting reading.

What disappoints, however, is the lack of detail in the quinquagenarian’s “Internet” statement. But maybe this is how all helmsmen work these days–so scared of their plans being nicked by some up-and-coming company (or even a lumbering old behemoth) that they remain deliberately obfuscatory, although another exec, Niklas Savander, reveals that the Finns are recruiting from Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google. As Mandy Rice-Davies might have it: “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

[Via BusinessWeek]

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About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S

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