Nokia’s VP of MeeGo Says MeGone

Nokia (s nok) has lost another high-level executive ,as Ari Jaaksi, head of MeeGo devices, is leaving the company. Jaaksi’s departure comes just months prior the anticipated launch of Nokia’s first MeeGo device, which the company is targeting at the high-end smartphone and handheld market. Jaaksi is stepping down for personal reasons, a Nokia representative told the Wall Street Journal, but will be staying on for a few weeks.

Jaaksi’s departure follows that of two other key Nokia executives and hints at some political strife within the company, which has lost much of its smartphone market share lead in the past three years. Less than a month ago, then-CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo was replaced by Stephen Elop, who arrived from Microsoft (s msft). Days later, Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia’s executive VP and head of Mobile Solutions, resigned with six months notice after being passed over for the CEO role.

Such management changes haven’t yet hurt Nokia from an outsider’s perspective. The company’s first Symbian^3 device, the Nokia N8, shipped on time at the end of September, and initial impressions of the handset’s hardware are generally favorable, although I’ve found some software quirkiness in my review unit. Now that the N8 is shipping, however, eyes are turning towards Nokia’s MeeGo platform, which is a joint effort between Nokia and Intel (s intc). It’s widely expected that a MeeGo device will launch by the end of 2010. Even as Nokia has lost executives, is also added one specific to MeeGo; last month, Peter Skillman joined Nokia as the VP of Meego user experience and services. Skillman brings with him a wealth of design talent, having been heavily involved with the Palm (s hpq) webOS platform.

At this point in the MeeGo lifecycle, any software and devices in the product pipeline for an end-of-year delivery are likely far enough along that Jaaksi’s departure won’t affect the product initially. Nokia hasn’t named Jaaksi’s replacement yet, so a new executive could alter the timeline, but such a move would hurt Nokia from a public relations standpoint. I suspect that any MeeGo launch plans currently in place will continue on, as a result. Based on a conversation I had with Vanjoki at Nokia World, MeeGo will “knock the socks off of competitors,” so even as executives leave the company, Nokia remains steadfast on its MeeGo strategy.

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