Innovators & Influencers: Nokia's Anssi Vanjoki

It's no slam dunk for the executive in charge of reshaping Nokia into a Web-based services provider.

December 15, 2007

5 Min Read
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At 51, lifelong hoops junkie Anssi Vanjoki has to rely on craft and guile more than raw athleticism in the pickup basketball games he plays when he's at home in Espoo, Finland. It's good practice for turning the world's No. 1 handset maker from a hardware vendor into a provider of Web-based services.

That's the mission Vanjoki, as executive VP and general manager of Nokia's multimedia business unit, has been handed with Ovi, the company's new brand for Web-based services, which include music, games, social networking, and navigation. In talking up Ovi, Vanjoki refers to "the context-aware Internet," which will follow its mobile users through their daily lives, providing what they need--entertainment, connections, information--where and when they need it.

It's a new era for Nokia, which has seen margins slip in its core handset business, and Vanjoki is the exec charged with making sure the company thrives. Sinking a clutch jump shot will look easy by comparison.

Q&A With Annsi Vanjoki

InformationWeek: What's happening in the wireless market that makes Ovi particularly timely and potentially successful?
Vanjoki: In the worldwide market, we see broadband networks based on all these different technologies going up at increasing speeds, they're growing exponentially at the moment, and so also is the usage. In particular the use of small multimedia computers, smartphones, etc., is increasing.
If you look at studies you see that the user profile now is turning heavily on different kinds of data use. I saw a report from Smartphone 360 that said only 12% of the time on-air is now spent on voice calls-the rest is browsing, photos, games, and so on.
Then when you look at market forces, the openness movement in the U.S., for instance, really starts to catch on. What Google is doing, and how people are joining into that, the activities we've done in bringing products directly to the market, and now Verizon announcing that it will open its network.
I think that the U.S. is starting to become again a hotspot for innovation, with the Internet moving into its next stage: the context aware Internet.
IW: I've heard that phrase several times from Nokia. What does it mean?
Vanjoki: We're now in the Web 2.0 phase, where the Internet is moving from an information depository and retrieval mechanism, to becoming a social place for people to meet and share their lives and develop things together.
Making the Internet context-aware means accessing it not only through a PC, but via a small multimedia computer that you carry in your pocket, that's with you 24/7, and that can indicate your personal profile at all times in a rich way to the Internet.
Piece by piece, the Web is becoming aware, so that we can make our profiles extensions of our soul in the network.
IW: How does Ovi fit into this? And how will Nokia make money on it?
Vanjoki: Ovi of course is the big brand launch of the whole environment. Whether it's over PCs, general Web access, as well as via mobile devices for different kinds of services. First we'll introduce individual services, then make the platform alive in separate steps thru 2008.
We're offering mapping and location services now, as well as music in certain areas, we'll bring out games this year, then the next elements in '08. By end of 2008 the whole of the environment will be live.
In the Ovi environment, there will be seven "experience suites." Users will be able to organize their life, their context, and their relationships, in a UI that's very easy to use, very intuitive, whether they happen to be on a PC or on a mobile device.
We plan to make money on the software side by monetizing most of our efforts through the hardware-that continues to be the way we monetize our services. Each individual service is meant to be a revenue-generating service for us, whether it's music or presence or games.
IW: How do you go about changing the world's largest handset maker into a Web-based services provider?
Vanjoki: Well it's not very easy, but at the same time it's a bit easier for us because for many years we've already been investing in software as a major competence in Nokia.
We'll develop most of these services in-house, but we need to change the whole way we're organized. From the beginning of this year, we've been elevating this strategy first so that we're very much becoming an Internet-driven company. Ovi is the manifestation of that.
Instead of organizing under different business entities, mobile phones, multimedia, enterprise, and so on, now we are integrating everything together into functional organizations: devices, services, and one taking everything to market. That change isn't complete, it's still in the planning phase but it will take effect at the beginning of the year.
IW: What's the biggest challenge?
Vanjoki: It's like a fight against time. We must be able to mature all these different things in time so that it shapes the organization, at the same time so once everything is ready we can be in position to take everything to market.

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