Anssi Vanjoki might not be a very familiar name, even to American tech enthusiasts well versed in the likes of Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer. However, he was a key player at Finnish phonemaker Nokia for nearly two decades. Mr. Vanjoki came to Nokia in 1991 from American chemical conglomerate 3M. In 2005 he master-minded the launch of Nokia's first smartphone lineup -- the N Series. Today he serves as the Executive Vice President & General Manager, Mobile Solutions unit and is the second most senior executive at Nokia. He was widely regarded as the company's "number two" behind departing executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.
But when Nokia, the world's largest phonemaker, looked to find a new CEO amid lagging smartphone performance, it overlooked Mr. Vanjoki. Instead, the company opted for former Microsoft Canada executive Stephen Elop. Mr. Vanjoki quickly announced his resignation.
Speaking to reporters this week at the Nokia World 2010 event in London he confirmed that he resigned because of the snub. When asked why he left the company, he responded, "I didn’t become the CEO. It is as simple as that. You know who the guy is it’s not you…so what do you do, you stay or you leave. I decided to leave."
When asked why Nokia was struggling in the smartphone arena, he says it is probably due to the company's use of the Symbian operating system, which is regarded as less intuitive and innovative that Apple's iOS or Google's Android operating system. Still, he says that his company has fixed up Symbian to feature similar touch gestures to its competitors.
He says that the current iteration of Symbian is now better than his competitors' offerings. As reported earlier this week, he compared the decision of handset makers like HTC to produce phones with the popular Android OS to boys urinating on themselves outside in the winter to stay warm. He remarks, "First it gives you a warm feeling, but boy is it cold after that."
Mr. Vanjoki added that Nokia's second problem is a lack of presence in America, where a great deal of the world's software development talent resides.
When asked about his future plans, he remarked, "I need a plan. My plan is to plan."
One thing's for sure -- having lost much of its top level executive management Nokia is going to have a tough time stay on course, particularly amid concerted efforts from Apple and Android. In that regard Mr. Vanjoki will be sorely missed -- despite his somewhat off-the-cuff remarks.