Nokia’s new CEO, Rajeev Suri, has what he needs to think past the smartphone

Nokia(s nok) – the remaining Finnish company, not the phone firm now owned by Microsoft(s msft) — has appointed its new chief executive. As rumored, the job went to Rajeev Suri, the man credited with painfully turning around the company’s no-longer-struggling NSN networking business.
As of Thursday, 1 May, Suri will take over from interim CEO Risto Siilasmaa, who will continue as before as the chairman of Nokia’s board. The last full-time CEO was Stephen Elop, who transferred over to lead what is now the Microsoft Mobile Devices group as part of the $7.17 billion takeover. As it happens, Suri and newly-installed Microsoft chief Satya Nadella share an alma mater in the Manipal Institute of Technology, in India.
Suri is a longtime Nokia veteran, having joined the company in 1995. So what’s his vision?

Major potential

Networking is clearly a primary focus right now, with Suri retaining direct control over NSN. However – as I have repeatedly argued — the other two divisions of the new/old Nokia (each of which has a chief reporting to Suri) potentially give it what it needs to take on the likes of Google(s goog) in the post-smartphone world.
Those two divisions are the Here platform, which provides mapping, navigation and augmented reality (AR) technologies and services, and an Advanced Technologies unit that’s mucking around with new materials, sensors and cloud tech. That latter division could simply be used as an intellectual property cash cow, or it could also work alongside the others to develop a new generation of wearable computers, delivering context-specific services.
Suri’s appointment press release certainly links Here with wearables, but it’s slightly vague on what Advanced Technologies will come up with, apart from noting work in “low-power connected smart multi-sensor systems, distributed sensing, and intelligent interplay between various types of radio technologies.”
Here’s what Suri himself said in a video posted on Monday (and embedded below):

“I have been with Nokia for almost 20 years and the opportunities in front of us are as great as I have ever seen. The coming changes in technology will be as profound as the creation of the internet. We are rapidly approaching a world where everybody and everything will be connected, and where all that connectivity will be bound together, acting with intelligence in a way that simplifies and improves people’s lives.
“At Nokia, we see our role in that world as providing intelligent connections, starting with networks but going well beyond that to connecting the real and virtual through maps and location intelligence, connecting information to analysis and action, and much more.”

Next generation

I’m only starting to wrap my head around the implications of the upcoming generation of thin, flexible electronics. Smart fabrics, supple screens and printed circuitry will enable all sorts of new devices and user interfaces and Nokia, ever adapt at reinvention, is as well placed as any company to capitalize on these opportunities.
Under the terms of the Microsoft deal, the Finnish Nokia will be free to stick its logo back on smartphones again from the start of 2016. I rather suspect that the familiar brand will be appearing on very different form factors.
P.S. — This is the new leadership lineup at Nokia, which also reported increasing profitability on Tuesday:

  • Rajeev Suri as President and CEO of Nokia
  • Timo Ihamuotila as Executive Vice President and Group Chief Financial Officer
  • Michael Halbherr as CEO of HERE
  • Henry Tirri as Executive Vice President, and acting Head of Technologies
  • Samih Elhage as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial and Operating Officer of Networks