Nokia unveils N8 smartphone, chairman to leave in 2012

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Nokia released the long-awaited N8 smartphone running Symbian^3 at the Nokia World event Tuesday amid news of the 2012 departure of its chairman.

Management shakeups

Chairman Jorma Ollila announced his intention to step down just days after several other major management changes, according to a report by MarketWatch. On Friday, Nokia announced that chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo was to be replaced by Stephen Elop on Sept. 21. Elop comes from Microsoft, where he served as head of the company's Business Division.

On Monday, Anssi Vanjoki, head of Nokia's mobile solutions unit, announced his resignation. According to MarketWatch, several analysts have speculated that Vanjoki decided to leave because "he wasn't chosen as the new CEO."

Nokia still leads as the world's top handset maker, but the current management team has come under criticism as it has lost market share to newer smartphone players like Apple. Nokia's management shakeups are seen as a 'changing of the guard' while the Finnish company tries to reinvent itself.

"Ollila's departure was somehow expected. What is new is the more precise timing. Now we're likely going to see a stream of departures." Royal Bank of Scotland analyst Alex Faure said.

The N8 and Symbian^3

In spite of the news of management upheaval, the star of Tuesday's Nokia World show was the flagship N8 smartphone. The N8, which runs the latest version of the Symbian operating system, should be out by the end of the month and will cost 370 euros unsubsidized. The device comes with a 12-megapixel camera, HDMI out and a 3.5-inch 360 x 640 pixel touchscreen.

Response to the new handset has reportedly been "the strongest Nokia has ever seen." The N8 is set to roll out to over 100 operators worldwide in coming months.

First impressions of the upgraded Symbian OS have been lukewarm. U.K.-based telecoms consultancy CCS Insight admits that Nokia "has made progress" on the operating system, but feels it is "not positioned to challenge Apple's iPhone."

Slashgear's Michael Gartenberg spent a week with the N8 and found the hardware "impressive," but called the software "a different story." Despite making "great strides in usability and functionality," Nokia has much to do in order to "drive the software platform forward." The selection of the OVI store "pales relative to the competition," wrote Gartenberg.

The N8's road to release has not been trouble-free. The smartphone was delayed several times, stalling Nokia's high-end smartphone lineup for the first three quarters of 2010. In April, a Russian blogger acquired a prototype N8 and published a critical review. Several months later, Nokia contacted the Russian police in order to recover the lost device.

The incident echoed the "lost" iPhone 4 saga. After Jason Chen, an editor for Gizmodo, released a hands-on look at a prototype iPhone 4, California authorities confiscated computers, servers, and phones from Chen's residence.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs insisted the prototype was stolen and that Gizmodo had tried to extort Apple.