Nokia U.S. President Outlines Turnaround Goals

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Chris Weber, Nokia’s new U.S. president, has his work cut out for him in the U.S., where the company’s handset share has fallen dramatically over the years.

Earlier this year, Weber was appointed president of Nokia Inc. (U.S.) and head of markets, North America, as part of a worldwide restructuring effort launched by Nokia to bring in new management, bring products to market faster, reduce costs, and partner with Microsoft to focus on Windows Phone 7 smartphones to reverse the company’s worldwide market share decline, which was particularly acute in smartphones.

In the U.S., Nokia was at the top of the heap in handset sales in the 1990s, but company’s fortunes changed. Nokia was not known for working closely with carriers to bring products to market, and its proprietary Symbian smartphones did not catch on in a market dominated by Apple’s iOS and Android OS. The company had also been slow to move from bartype phones to clamshell phones and sliders as consumer demand shifted.

Nokia hopes to resurrect its fortunes worldwide and in the U.S. and Canada, where Weber is responsible for managing the markets organization of Nokia’s device and services business.

Before joining Nokia, Weber owned a consulting business focused on helping companies develop worldclass sales cultures. He previously spent 15 years at Microsoft, where he held several senior executive positions in sales, marketing and professional services.

As corporate VP leading Microsoft’s U.S. enterprise and partner group, Weber was responsible for leading enterprise sales and marketing across the U.S.

In earlier Microsoft roles, Weber oversaw national sales strategy, sales operations, enterprise partners and vertical industry strategy, as well as sales and marketing for a variety of divisions.

Here’s what Weber had to say about his North American goals in response to written questions:


What changes will you make in Nokia’s relationships with U.S. carriers?


With the vast majority of smartphones in the U.S. being sold directly to consumers through operator channels, the opportunity is clear. We have re-evaluated and renewed our channel priorities and will focus on offering consumers Nokia with Windows Phone devices through our carrier partnerships. Further, we are adjusting our resourcing and investments in each of these areas – areas like sales rep training and access to our devices are key to re-establishing Nokia in the U.S. and in the hearts of consumers.

And it is not just Nokia that is invested in our success. Our operator customers are working with us because our success is important to the overall ecosystem.

But, it is about adding new smartphone customers, not simply churning existing customers. We are perfectly positioned to attract consumers who are not yet using smartphones and are perhaps intimidated by the technology. With Windows Phone, many of the things consumers would like to do on the mobile are integrated so that the consumer doesn’t have to worry about operating multiple apps or functions on the device. In fact, when we show the operators our Nokia devices running Windows Phone, right away the comments are about how the consumer would have to download about six separate apps on other platforms. So we believe together with Windows Phone, we can offer a simplified, yet full smartphone experience.


What changes will you make in your retailer relationships, mainly in terms of dealer support?


I mentioned earlier about sales rep training and providing the sales reps access to our devices. This represents a major investment from Nokia and from our operator partners. In addition to retail and dealer programs, the best thing we can do is to drive consumers into the operator channel asking for Nokia devices. For us that means a big spend in marketing. You’ll see that coming in the months ahead.


What will you do to boost Nokia’s consumer awareness?


First, we need to launch our products with the operators. We aim to have a portfolio of products with multiple carriers in early 2012. We are excited about introducing our consumer marketing, which centers around “Amazing Everyday.”

When you think about it, we all want our every day to be a little exciting. Every day is not about the day you do something like bungee jump off a bridge. Your amazing everyday may be something that makes you smile during your normal commute. Capturing and sharing that amazing moment on your smartphone is what we are talking about here. It’s a fun way to connect with consumers and lets them know they don’t have to be a technologist to be able to participate.


Do you have a market-share goal and timetable?


We consider ourselves a challenger in the U.S. market. So when you think of it that way, there is nowhere to go but up. Our goals are ambitious, and our time frame starts as soon as we enter the market. We have said early 2012 and we feel confident that we will deliver.


Will Nokia re-enter the tablet market in the U.S.?


Tablets are an important consideration in the smart devices market, but we have no announcements to make at this time. As our CEO Stephen Elop has said, we do not want to introduce the 202nd tablet into a crowded marketplace. Our decision to pursue a tablet strategy would only be based on a belief that we could introduce meaningful differentiation into that space.


Nokia has traditionally focused on marketing GSM/HSPA handsets in the U.S. along with low-priced CDMA feature phones to Verizon and smaller carriers. Will you add other handset technologies in 2012?


We are committed to launching products that meet specific local market requirements – including as we announced, plans for LTE and CDMA products.


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