The 9 best and worst moments of Stephen Elop


Stephen Elop, the man responsible for Nokia's Lumia devices at Microsoft and the Finnish firm's former CEO, is leaving Microsoft.

Elop didn't elope, though. He and Microsoft boss Satya Nadella "have agreed that now is the right time for him to retire from Microsoft," Nadella says.

It's part of a wider restructuring within Microsoft, and it means Microsoft is saying goodbye to the man responsible for these best and worst moments.

The 'burning platform' speech

When Elop joined Nokia from Microsoft, it was in trouble, and he made no attempt to sugarcoat it.

Speaking to Nokia employees in 2011 (the speech was later published for the world to read, too), he said that Nokia was standing on "a burning platform" that had "multiple points of scorching heat that are fueling a blazing fire around us."

Replacing Symbian with Windows

The former Microsoft man decided the best mobile operating system around was Microsoft's Windows Phone, and he bet Nokia's future on using it instead of the aging but well-loved Symbian OS.

It's a decision that was widely mocked, but there was smart thinking behind it: Elop believed that one manufacturer beginning with S would probably end up dominating Android, and if Nokia was in that market it'd be just another Android phone firm.

He was right about Samsung, and probably right about Nokia's chances as an Android manufacturer, too. However, unfortunately for Nokia, Windows Phone created all kinds of problems for their engineers and Microsoft wasn't as helpful as it could, or perhaps should, have been.

Getting unfairly blamed for all of Nokia's mistakes

To outsiders, it looked as if Elop essentially flew Nokia into the sun, destroying the world's favourite phone maker. But he inherited a company that was in a mess after years of bad management. He might not have made the right decisions, but his heart was in the right place - and he wasn't the one who didn't see the threat that iPhones and Android posed to Nokia's core business.

Binning Nokia's mobile payment platform

In 2012, Nokia canned its Nokia Money service, which enabled people to send money to others and pay for goods using just their mobile phones. The decision seemed strange given the hype around m-commerce - hype that Apple and Google are both currently surfing with Apple Pay and Android Pay, respectively - but Elop didn't want Nokia to waste its energies on doing lots of things in a half-arsed fashion. It would concentrate solely on doing phones in a half-arsed fashion instead.

Being accused of skulduggery

Many people suspected that Elop was a Trojan Horse, and that his move to Nokia would ultimately result in the company being sold to Microsoft.

Elop proved them wrong by driving Nokia to the brink of collapse and, er, selling it to Microsoft. But insiders are adamant that the £4.6 billion deal wasn't the result of any Machiavellian scheming: Elop was serious about wanting to save Nokia, and its sale to Microsoft was a personal defeat, not a triumph.

The move was prompted by angry shareholders who felt, rightly, that Nokia was still too far behind Apple and Android. They were probably pretty upset that their shares had dropped by 85% since he took over, too.

That bonus

As if the Finns weren't angry enough at Elop's handling of Nokia, he managed to add 18.8 million Euros to injury: that was the bonus Elop would be awarded when Nokia's sale to Microsoft went through, and it worked out at roughly one million Euros for every one billion Euros that Elop wiped off Nokia's market capitalisation on his watch. When asked to take a smaller bonus, Elop said he couldn't, because he was getting divorced.

Sending one of the worst layoff e-mails of all time

"Hello there," Elop began his long, rambling memo back in 2014. It took him a full 11 paragraphs to get to the point, which was that Elop's bit of Microsoft - the devices unit - was going to make 12,500 people redundant. NYMag's furious takedown of the memo is funny and entirely justified.

Doing a Nokia to Windows Phone

When Elop returned to Microsoft, he turned Windows Phone into the massive success it is today. Ahem. His departure is a clear signal that Microsoft isn't happy with Windows Phone's performance or strategy. It's some turnaround since the speculation that Elop was returning to Microsoft in order to succeed Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO.

Not being Tim Cook

Stephen Elop wasn't the first choice of Nokia CEO: according to the book Operation Elop by journalists from the Finnish newspaper Kauppalehti, the executive head-hunters first approached a supply chain wizard called Tim Cook. You may have heard of him. Had he answered Nokia's call, things might have turned out very differently, but instead Nokia ended up with what the book's authors describe as "by many measures… one of the world's worst, if not +the+ worst, chief executives."

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.