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Should Microsoft Hand CEO Reins to Nokia's Stephen Elop?

Should Microsoft Hand CEO Reins to Nokia
September 4, 2013 11:22AM

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There are the Microsoft investors who were unhappy with Steve Ballmer's performance and are feeling uneasy. Replacing Ballmer with Stephen Elop would be like rearranging the deck furniture of the Titanic. Nokia stock declined under Elop's stewardship and that's a major red flag to investors.

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Stephen Elop couldn't fix what ailed Nokia, and eventually ended up selling the business to Microsoft. So why is there so much talk about Elop stepping into Steve Ballmer's shoes as the company's third-ever chief?

With Redmond's $7 billion acquisition of Nokia, Elop becomes an insider who may find favor with the board to assume the CEO role when Ballmer retires in the months ahead. Elop stepped down as CEO of Nokia and will serve as executive vice president of Devices & Services at Microsoft -- at least for now.

We asked several tech industry watchers for their thoughts on Elop as the next CEO of Microsoft. The reactions are mixed.

Elop Too Committed to Windows

Adam Hartung, author of "Create Marketplace Disruption: How to Stay Ahead of the Competition," and managing partner for growth strategy firm Spark Partners, said Elop is not the right guy because he's firmly committed to Windows 8 and trying to keep Microsoft alive by defending and extending its historical core.

"His decisions at Nokia to wholly commit to Windows caused a 70 percent decline in market share," Hartung said. "Bringing him back to Microsoft in an effort to make Win8 devices -- phones and tablets -- which the market will want, is a foolish move starting with a nearly $8 billion investment to buy Nokia, and what will surely be billions more spent to develop and attempt selling additional devices."

As Hartung sees it, Microsoft cannot succeed by continuing to push Windows 8 and Office. The market has shifted to mobile devices running iOS and Android, and users are taking advantage of lighter applications like Google Docs.

"That shift has happened, Microsoft missed it, and trying to catch that shift is a money-losing effort," Hartung said. "As we've seen with Nokia's move to Win8 devices and the subsequent market share declines, plus the write off of Surface by Microsoft, promoting Windows products will not turn around Microsoft."

No One Can Fill Gates' Shoes

Mark Faust, principal at Echelon Management International, a growth and turnaround advisory firm, disagrees. He told us Microsoft needs a "controlled revolution" and if anyone can pull that off it is Elop.

"Microsoft doesn't warrant the same message as the 'burning platform' letter but they warrant the same impetus to increased innovation and speed to market," he said. "Elop is an exhorter, and the culture at Microsoft is stale and needs a strong wind of change. Elop can deliver." (continued...)

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