Elop defends his Nokia tenure, promises faster innovation as part of Microsoft

Stephen Elop

Stephen Elop

Stephen Elop, the former Nokia CEO who has returned to Microsoft as part of its $7.2 billion Nokia acquisition, this morning defended his tenure at the smartphone maker and denied the notion that he was merely a Trojan Horse that infiltrated Nokia for the benefit of the Redmond company.

Elop said Microsoft hasn’t yet decided on a brand name for the former Nokia smartphones. He also said he expects the Nokia teams to be able to innovate faster through tighter integration with Microsoft.

The comments come three days after Microsoft completed the acquisition of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, transforming itself into a smartphone maker. The integration of the acquisition will be one of the first big tests for the company under new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

In the “Ask Me Anything”-style online Q&A on the Nokia Conversations blog, Elop was challenged by longtime Nokia fans over the strategic decisions made by Nokia under his leadership, most notably the move to drop the Symbian and MeeGo platforms in favor of Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

One person on the thread blamed him for killing Nokia and suggested that the decisions he made came back to haunt the company.

“Thanks, I know that there is a lot of emotion around some of the hard decisions that we had to make,” responded Elop. “Back in late 2010 and 2011, we carefully assessed the state of the internal Nokia operating system efforts. Unfortunately, we could not see a way that Symbian could be brought to a competitive level with, for example, the iPhone that had shipped THREE years earlier! And the Meego effort was significantly delayed and did not have the promise of a broad enough portfolio soon enough. We had to make a forceful decision to give Nokia the chance to compete again.”

Elop, who led the Microsoft Office business before joining Nokia as CEO, also responded to assertions that he was a “Trojan Horse” for Microsoft in his role.

elop-ballmer

Elop and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

He said, “As a result of the work that we have done, we have transformed Nokia into a stronger company with NSN, HERE and Advanced Technologies. At the same time, our Devices and Services business has a new opportunity within a stronger Microsoft. As for the Trojan horse thing, i have only ever worked on behalf of and for the benefit of Nokia shareholders while at Nokia. Additionally, all fundamental business and strategy decisions were made with the support and approval of the Nokia board of directors, of which I was a member.”

One customer asked Elop why Nokia didn’t put a dedicated image processor in the Lumia 1020.

“Great question because it highlights the benefits of the acquisition of Nokia,” said Elop. “The 1020 is consistently rated as one of the best camera phones. But, we could have gone further if the engineering teams between MSFT and Nokia were not in separate companies. As we come together, innovation will be able to move faster.”

What about the fate of Nokia’s Android phone, the Nokia X? Elop said Microsoft will use the phone to “to help connect the next billion people to Microsoft’s services.” He noted that Nokia has “already seen tens of thousands of new subscribers on MSFT services.”

Elop also clarified that the “Microsoft Mobile Oy” name that emerged prior to the completion of the acquisition was “a legal construct that was created to facilitate the merger” and “not a brand that will be seen by consumers.”

He added later, “Now that we are One company, the marketing and product folks will lay in the plans for the shift to a consistent brand. While we are not ready to share precise details, i can assure you that it will not be the “Nokia Lumia 1020 with Windows Phone on the AT&T LTE Network.’ “

The full Q&A is available here. You may need to clear your browser cache to view the archived Q&A on the Nokia site.