I have decided to also address this subject. One can say the whole blog should have started from it, but I felt it is in a sense getting personal. However, this blog would not be whole if this one is left missing, so here I go:

Whoever happens to be reading this blog for the first time may wonder who is Tomi Ahonen. He says he is ex-Nokia executive but that is quite vague description. First of all, Nokia has answered to journalist request a while back and told that Tomi Ahonen indeed has worked in Nokia Networks as a marketing manager. That triggered Tomi to write long blog post where he explains that he has never been a Marketing Manager but (in his words) “I was a ‘Product Manager’ at the FSG business unit of Nokia Networks from 1998. I then became a Segmentation Manager at the TGW unit of Nokia Networks and ended my Nokia career as Global Head of 3G Business Consultancy, at Nokia headquarters in the 3G Strategic Marketing unit at Nokia from 2000 to 2001“. Tomi even handed his business cards:

(click to enlarge, the red circles have been added by me)
That is really nice list of Tomi’s history. Please note that while Tomi according to his business cards was “Segmentation manager in Solution Marketing“, he was not “Marketing Manager”. By his own words Tomi was “Head of 3G Business Consultancy in the 3G Strategic Marketing unit”, not “Marketing Manager”.
Apparently this is a big deal. 😉
But more interesting part there is that according to Tomi, he never worked in handsets unit or in the Nokia Group, he always worked in Networks.
In addition to that I had an interesting comment here in the blog some time ago:

Surprisingly enough nobody has, by now, exposed what Mr Ahonen’s “former Nokia executive” background really means in practice.

Mr Ahonen has never worked in Nokia handset business, only in Networks. He has NOT been responsible for any P/L business unit; the “Nokia consulting unit” he is referring to was a non-invoicing networks marketing support function creating slideware to support infrastructure bids.

That’s right – Networks, networks, networks – and more form Tomi himself:

Then the obvious caveat. I am not a ‘mobile phone handset guy’ (really?) yes. My core competence is not smartphones or dumbphones or handsets. It is the ‘services’ and applications of mobile, where this industry makes most of its money. So my core competence is how the operators/carriers make their money with SMS, MMS, voice calls, mobile content like music, games, news; mobile telematics, mobile money, mobile advertising etc. That is my core competence. I really am not a phone designer like say Christian Lindholm or Jan Chipchase. I am not a user interface designer or operating software designer either. So I am honestly not the best person to write this blog – but I am an opinionated guy and I do have lots of thoughts on this subject. And its literally ten years since I left Nokia HQ and started my own consultancy. I may have had some insights into Nokia markets and products and customers and end-users way back then, but not anymore. As I now live here in Hong Kong, we do not have a very ‘typical’ market, so I am not even exposed to all Nokia phone models here etc. I can make observations and educated guesses, but this blog will by necessity be incomplete. I am not enough of an expert. And one should do a deep analysis of Nokia market segments, customers, end-users, competitor products, product portfolio offerings, marketing activities etc etc etc, by each segment. That would be impossible within one blog article. But let me try (haha).” [2]
Tomi Ahonen, January 31, 2011

This is two years old text. Two years ago he was not enough of an expert and had no longer insights into Nokia markets, products, customers and end-users.

This is what I never stop to wonder; how come Tomi Ahonen is seen as some kind of Nokia mobile device business expert considering his entire Nokia background (3 years of it and over 12 years ago) comes from networks, not from handsets? But that does explain how come Tomi Ahonen said in the past that only thing iPhone had that N95 did not have was touch screen. The concept of touch-based UI and usability/user friendliness as a differentiator was bypassed with a sentence: “with Apple, the facts no longer matter“.
Similarly we can understand why he focuses on camera megapixels, memory amount and Xenon flash when comparing flagship phones or why he felt display dimensions or resolution do not matter in such comparison.
Also, when comparing Operating Systems and/or phones, Tomi Ahonen repeatedly seems to ignore one element that today is strong criteria in end-user device selection. That is easy access to services (as well social as business) with as wide support of functions as possible.
Furthermore, knowing his non-handset background one can better understand how come he could possibly think that only 38% of smartphones sold now have a touch-screen and how come he thinks quadropod business card scanner would be a reason to buy a Communicator.

But as a sugar on the top, here is his recent view on his skills (and please note he has himself confirmed he never worked in handsets unit:

I am an ex-Nokia exec. I joined Nokia to build digital gateways and help put the internet onto mobile networks. I then was Nokia’s first Segmentation Manager, ie I led the team that studied Nokia customers deeply to then focus Nokia’s offerings more accurately to those customer needs. I cannot discuss that work obviously, but the Economist wrote in 2002, that the Nokia Segmentation model was a major key to how Nokia grew past Motorola. My last job at Nokia Headquarters was to set up and lead the Global Consulting Department, where I often would then sit with the top strategic teams and top management of Nokia’s carrier/operator customers around the world, in helping build their strategies. I know not only Nokia very deeply but I am rare in ex-Nokia staff to have sat at numerous Nokia clients – operators/carriers at their strategy level to understand their needs.

I left Nokia in 2001, ie almost a decade before Elop came to town. I moved here to Asia, so I haven’t even been in Finland when he arrived. I have never met the man. As to ‘being fired’ or ‘bearing a grudge’ or being disgruntled in some way – again, nothing could be further from the truth.” [1]

It seems the guy has epic skills on creating half-truths. “know Nokia very deeply” indeed. And while Tomi has repeatedly pointed out that he has not worked outside Networks, he now suddenly has a history in Nokia HQ? Go figure.

Of course this is the time to ask that does this info explain why Tomi is so hostile towards Nokia? It is true that this does not explain it. But let’s assume I happened to be in contact with people who have worked with Tomi Ahonen in the past. bearing grudge or not, they would happen to know that Tomi Ahonen hates Microsoft & Windows, has trouble admitting his own mistakes and show stubborness described as “when he gets an idea, he will push for it to the very end, ignoring all disagreeing voices and – sometimes – also reason.”

So had one come to know these few additional details he/she could understand better the situation:

  • We know that Tomi’s hostility starts from the strategy change. He had most positive attitude towards Nokia before that. But then Nokia turned into strategic alliance with Microsoft (which Tomi hates so much) and at the same time Nokia moved to Windows Phone. This definitely hits bad to someone with Microsoft allergy.
  • Tomi Ahonen indeed has a track record of not being able to admit he is wrong until proven so. Despite how he keeps saying he “proactively” tells when he has been wrong, it took a press article in finnish newspaper before he addressed his TV-broadcast statement that “Nokia will be sold within weeks, two months at tops”. This when the statement was 6 months old already.
    And this is in no way related to strategy change of Nokia, epic example (prior to strategy change) is the Burning Platforms Memo.
    When memo was leaked, Tomi Ahonen spent huge effort to explain how that memo has to be a hoax as it is in many ways against his analysis on why Nokia has the best strategy out there. Totally understandable, it probably has been text he refuses to believe. But the thing is, memo was widely stated to be genuine so he should pretty soon notice he was wrong, right?
    We can read from comments of his blog that he was told – several times – that there are credible sources confirming the memo to be genuine, including Helsingin Sanomat from Finland and Wall Street Journal. Tomi Ahonen still insisted that he is “not willing to accept it as true, before we hear someone currently employed at Nokia admitting in public that its true. [3]
    (In the end Tomi was able to admit memo is genuine when Stephen Elop the CEO said so.)
  • And then the stubborness. For that behavior I must pick up the “Elop admits Skype Boycott” case. More of that next:

When Microsoft acquired Skype, Tomi Ahonen said it is bad for Windows Phone. In his opinion it was going to poison Microsoft – carrier relations. He even went as far as to suggest a “boycott” based on this. (Count this for Microsoft allergy.) Then during the Nokia shareholders meeting, Helsingin Sanomat ran quick updates to web and one was this:

Mika Hasanen kysyy: Nokialla näyttää olevan ongelmia jakelussa Skypen takia. Miten aiotte päästä ohi tästä ongelmasta?
Elop vastaa: Jos operaattori ei halua meitä, niin se ei halua. Vetoamme kuitenkin operaattoreihin toisin argumentein. Meillä on tarjota heille muuta. Skype-keskustelusta on hyvä lähteä liikkeelle.
” [4]
Mika Hasanen asks: Nokia seems to have distribution problems due to Skype. How do you plan to get over this problem?
Elop Answers: If operator does not want us, it does no want us. We will use other arguments to appeal to them. We have other things to offer. Skype discussion is a good starting point.

I have no clue what happened. Apparently the poor Helsingin Sanomat reporter tried to make the response as short as possible and failed. However, at this point Tomi Ahonen stated that Elop admitted Skype-based boycott.
Luckily we have actual question and answer available as a video, so we know where the text got translated wrong. The question is pretty much correct, it apparently came from “Tomi Ahonen handbook of making loaded questions to CEO Elop“. The answer (for the parts seen in failed translation) was:

Operator can choose not to have Skype in their Windows Phones. Microsoft (and Nokia) can offer more to operators than iOS or Android could, including creative ways to make extra revenue from Skype calls. Operators actually want to engage in a conversation about what does this mean and how could we do something that we couldn’t do before.

Now when the video was released, it became obvious Helsingin Sanomat made a mistake as the statement was exact opposite of what was written. In a moment like that one could assume Tomi Ahonen admits he made a mistake. Instead he (up to date) says that Stephen Elop admitted Skype-based operator boycott. He has not changed his mind even though we know that Microsoft has this year made agreement with operators that Skype calls can be charged via operator billing – the kind of way to make revenue from Skype calls Elop said in his response.

I have to say the aforementioned description of the character of Tomi Ahonen seems to be accurate. For his sudden mission against Nokia I can only add this analysis: In 2009-2010 Tomi had spent quite a while explaining why Nokia has the best strategy in Symbian/MeeGo. He concluded it by saying this:

Don’t belive the hype or hysteria, that Nokia might abandon its Symbian and MeeGo strategy. It is truly the best in the market. Nokia will have more than a third of the total smartphone market in 2011, and in 2012, and in 2013… mark my words.” [5]
Tomi Ahonen, December 13, 2010

18 days later 4th quarter of 2010 ended and Nokia had market share of 28,5%. In less than three weeks Tomi’s forecast for three years was obsolete. Next Canalys reported that Android had bypassed Symbian, so Tomi rushed to correct them. [6] His numbers were that Symbian had 32% market share whereas Android had 30%. (Even with those numbers Android bypasses Symbian during Q1 2011, approximately at end of January). In this situation it is a gift from heavens if one can blame Nokia-Microsoft alliance for all that went wrong (by ignoring two quarters of Nokia results and his own writings of about last two weeks).

So far he seems to keep that strategy. Perhaps we get to hear something else in 2014, 2015 or even 2017.


[1] http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2013/01/nokia-surprises-us-by-releasing-q4-smartphone-results-early-so-3-for-q4-and-5-for-full-year-2012-and/comments/page/3/#comments

[2] http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2011/01/return-of-the-jedi-nokia-can-be-saved-here-is-the-how.html

[3] http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2011/02/the-nokia-ceo-burning-platform-memo-at-engagdget-doesnt-ring-true-to-my-ears.html

[4] http://live.hs.fi/Event/Nokian_yhtiokokous_35_2012?Page=1

[5] http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2010/12/some-symbian-sanity-why-nokia-will-not-join-google-android-or-microsoft-phone-7.html

[6] http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2011/02/paging-stats-police-canalys-jumped-gun-rather-badly-android-is-not-yet-ahead-of-symbian-but-will-be-.html