Ina Fried

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Selling Nokia Was Hard Emotionally, but Right Thing to Do, Says Interim CEO

Nokia’s interim CEO said Tuesday that selling the company’s phone business was hard emotionally, but clearly the right move for Nokia.

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“Selling businesses is not nearly as cool, but sometimes it is the right course of action,” Risto Siilasmaa said during a press conference that was also broadcast on the Internet. “It was a very emotional decision for me.”

Siilasmaa said that the phone industry is “becoming a duopoly,” with the leaders (clearly iOS and Android) gaining increasing momentum.

“Nokia alone does not have the resources,” Siilasmaa said. Microsoft, he said, does have the resources but lacked the business model under the existing arrangement, noting that Microsoft made less than $10 in revenue for each phone sold.

He also tried to position the deal as something other than a blow to Nokia’s home country.

Finland becomes a core base for Microsoft in Europe, Siilasmaa said, while the remaining Nokia is better positioned for the future.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, meanwhile, pointed to the growth that Windows Phone has seen, with sales up 78 percent from a year ago.

“Now is the time to build on this momentum,” Ballmer said.

Ballmer also announced that Microsoft will build a new $250 million data center in Finland, in addition to making the country the hub of its phone research and development efforts.

Meanwhile, Siilasmaa highlighted the strengths of Nokia’s three remaining businesses — cellular equipment, location-based services and patents.

Nokia will also continue to look at various “advanced technologies,” Siilasmaa said.

As far as its leadership, former CEO Stephen Elop is stepping down from that post to avoid any potential conflicts of interest as the deal proceeds. Elop will serve as executive VP of devices and services, reporting to Siilasmaa.

Meanwhile, Siilasmaa said that Nokia (like Microsoft) will be engaged in a search to find a permanent CEO, with internal and external candidates to be considered.

Elop spoke to the tough changes that the company made during his tenure, and praised Nokia workers for moving quicker than the company had before he arrived.

“The people of Nokia have a tremendous amount to be proud of,” Elop said. “But we have to go even faster.”

He said he shared the frustration that Nokia still badly trails two rivals, and the sadness that Nokia as it has been known is changing.

“Rightfully, everyone in Finland is proud of what Nokia stands for,” he said.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus