Nokia unveils new phones, says chairman to step down in '12

Ollila departure seen as aiding push to regain smartphone lead

Nokia today confirmed that Chairman Jorma Ollila plans to resign in 2012, marking more sweeping changes as the company tries to win back leadership of a complex market with new smartphones.

At its Nokia World 2010 event in London, the world's biggest mobile phone maker announced three new smartphones -- the E7, C7 and C6 -- to join the previously announced N8. All four, expected to ship by the end of the year, use the newest Symbian 3 OS, which runs faster and supports multiple homescreens, touch gestures on the touchscreen and multitasking.

"Today, our fight back to smartphone leadership shifts into high gear," Niklas Savander, executive vice president of markets at Nokia, said in a statement.

Ollila's coming resignation, confirmed by a spokesperson via e-mail, could be seen as helping Nokia engage in a renewed smartphone battle, since it opens the way for newly appointed CEO Stephen Elop to lead the company as he chooses.

Nokia didn't ascribe reasons to Ollila's planned departure in 2012. Ollila, 60, was CEO for 14 years until 2006 and has been chairman since 1999. Nokia sells 34 per cent of the world's mobile phones, but has struggled against other smartphone makers and has seen a 70 per cent decline in share price over the past three years. Nokia's U.S. troubles are partly due to competition from the iPhone and a variety of new Android phones and BlackBerry smartphones.

In the U.S., Nokia only sells 3 per cent of smartphones, according to IDC. Some analysts have been skeptical that Elop , a Canadian who has worked for Microsoft , can reverse that poor showing.

The N8 has gotten widespread attention, mainly in Europe, since it was announced in April . With its 3.5-inch touchscreen and a 12-megapixel camera, Nokia expects to sell it unlocked for $US476. So far, Nokia has not said whether any U.S. carriers will sell it exclusively or how much a locked version will cost. Analysts expected those details to emerge from Nokia World this week. AT&T and T-Mobile, both GSM carriers, have provided previous Nokia devices, and some blogs said the unlocked version of the N8 in the U.S. will go for $550 and become available on 21 September .

Savander said the N8 has gotten the most online pre-orders in Nokia history, although it is unclear how strong demand has been in the U.S.

The new Nokia E7 has a physical keyboard and a 4-inch touchscreen, which swivels up to reveal the keyboard. Called the "ultimate business smartphone," it is estimated to sell for $US643.

The Nokia C7 features a 3.5-inch AMOLED touchscreen display and is focused on social networking with live updates from Facebook , Twitter and others. Nokia plans to sell it for $435.

The Nokia C6 is the smallest of the family of four, with a 3.2-inch AMOLED display, and priced at $US337.

Nokia said it has updated the Ovi Store for access to new games and apps, and is providing free access to Ovi Maps for navigation with its smartphones.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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