People

Meet Nokia’s new boss

Pekka Lundmark is returning to the Finnish telecom company. What does he bring to its turnaround?

Meet Nokia’s new boss

Pekka Lundmark has a lot of work ahead of him at Nokia.

Photo: Getty Images

How do you solve a problem like Nokia?

That'll soon be a question for Pekka Lundmark, the company's new chief executive and president. Once known as a handset maker, Nokia's major business is now networking equipment — and it's struggling to keep up with Huawei in the 5G race, even amid concerns that the Chinese tech giant's systems might be vulnerable to state surveillance.

Nokia announced Monday that longtime CEO Rajeev Suri will step down, making room for Lundmark, a former 1990s-era Nokia executive who has been running Finnish state-owned energy corporation Fortum since 2015. Lundmark will take over this September.

Get what matters in tech, in your inbox every morning. Sign up for Source Code.

He's stepping into a lot of work: The company's shares have lost roughly a third of their value over the past year, and just last week its future was cast into doubt after Bloomberg reported that it was considering selling off assets or even a merger.

"Nokia is really playing from behind right now," Mark Cash, a Morningstar equity analyst, told Protocol. "But the opportunity ahead of them is 5G, and they're trying to hit it with a fresh face."

So just who is Pekka Lundmark, and what could his leadership mean for Nokia?

A company man returns

Lundmark is a Finnish native with an engineering master's from Helsinki University of Technology and a history at Nokia. Throughout the 1990s, he served in a variety of roles at the company, including vice president of strategy and business development at Nokia Networks, according to a company press release.

His return will reunite him with the current vice chair of Nokia's board, and incoming chair, Sari Baldauf. She's another executive from Lundmark's first tenure at the company, who said she looks "forward to working closely with him" to create a Nokia "positioned for the future."

The two have already been working closely together in recent years: Baldauf served as Fortum's board chair between 2011 and 2018, during which the company hired Lundmark. In fact, according to Bloomberg, Baldauf recruited Lundmark for the top spot at Fortum.

The state connection

Lundmark's five years at the top of a Finnish-state owned corporation, including managing a complex regulatory process in a contentious takeover of German rival Uniper, likely taught him how to navigate the nuances of mixing business with government,

And that's a skill he'll need to keep flexing at Nokia, where Finnish state investment firm Solidium is the single largest shareholder with a 3.85% stake of the business. After Nokia slashed profit expectations in the fall, citing the costs of competing for 5G, Solidium chief executive Antti Makinen even went public with his frustrations.

"They have communicated their development to investors rather poorly, and we gave them some feisty feedback for it," Makinen told Reuters in January.

The global view

Although Fortum is a Finnish-state backed company, it operates around the world: as a major clean energy provider in Europe and with solar investments in India. So between his tenure there and previous stint on networking inside Nokia, Lundmark has experience navigating sometimes tense global dynamics.

And nowhere are things more geopolitically sensitive in tech right now than the business that defines Nokia's future. Although the company is struggling to keep up in 5G, security concerns about major competitor Huawei could leave an opening for Nokia and other networking tech providers, if they play their cards right.

"Some of the geography-centric bans on Huawei are definitely benefiting Nokia," as well as fellow Nordic competitor Ericsson, Cash said. "But they can be more aggressive in pursuing those opportunities," he added.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr even recently suggested that the American government invest in an alternative like Nokia, although experts, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Vice President Mike Pence all shot down that idea.

Get in touch with us: Share information securely with Protocol via encrypted Signal or WhatsApp message, at 415-214-4715 or through our anonymous SecureDrop.

In Europe, regulators have also raised security flags about 5G networks, but more discreetly. For example, last month The European Commission endorsed a joint "toolbox" with advice for mitigating risk across the new systems, including avoiding dependency on a single supplier — but without directly mentioning Huawei.

New leadership with a strong background working within bureaucracy could help Nokia capitalize on such openings. In fact, it might be the only way that Lundmark succeeds.

Google’s latest plans for Chromecast are all about free TV

The company is in talks to add dozens of free linear channels to its newest streaming dongle.

Google launched its new Google TV service a year ago. Now, the company wants to add free TV channels to it.

Photo: Google

Google is looking to make its Chromecast streaming device more appealing to cord cutters. The company has plans to add free TV channels to Google TV, the Android-based smart TV platform that powers Chromecast as well as select smart TVs from companies including Sony and TCL, Protocol has learned.

To achieve this, Google has held talks with companies distributing so-called FAST (free, ad-supported streaming television) channels, according to multiple industry insiders. These channels have the look and feel of traditional linear TV networks, complete with ad breaks and on-screen graphics. Free streaming channels could launch on Google TV as early as this fall, but the company may also wait to announce the initiative in conjunction with its smart TV partners in early 2022.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

While it's easy to get lost in the operational and technical side of a transaction, it's important to remember the third component of a payment. That is, the human behind the screen.

Over the last two years, many retailers have seen the benefit of investing in new, flexible payments. Ones that reflect the changing lifestyles of younger spenders, who are increasingly holding onto their cash — despite reports to the contrary. This means it's more important than ever for merchants to take note of the latest payment innovations so they can tap into the savings of the COVID-19 generation.

Keep Reading Show less
Antoine Nougue,Checkout.com

Antoine Nougue is Head of Europe at Checkout.com. He works with ambitious enterprise businesses to help them scale and grow their operations through payment processing services. He is responsible for leading the European sales, customer success, engineering & implementation teams and is based out of London, U.K.

Protocol | Policy

Iris scans for food in Jordanian refugee camps

More than 80% of the refugees in Jordanian camps now use iris scans to pay for their groceries. Refugee advocates say this is a huge future privacy problem.

A refugee uses their iris to access their account.

Photo: KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP via Getty Images

Every day, tens of thousands of refugees in the two main camps in Jordan pay for their groceries and withdraw their cash not with a card, but with a scan of their eye.

Nowhere in the United States can someone pay for groceries with an iris scan (though the Department of Homeland Security is considering collecting iris scans from U.S. immigrants, and Clear uses iris scans to verify identities for paying customers at airports) — but in the Jordanian refugee camps, biometric scanners are an everyday sight at grocery stores and ATMs. More than 80% of the 33,000-plus refugees who receive cash assistance and (most of them Syrian) and live in these camps use the United Nations' Refugee Agency iris-scanning system, which verifies identity through eye scans in order to distribute cash and food refugee assistance. Refugees can opt out of the program, but verifying identity without it is so complex that most do not.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Protocol | China

Weibo is muzzling users for discussing a landmark #metoo case

A number of accounts have been suspended, even deleted, after voicing support for the plaintiff.

Photo: Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

As a Beijing court dismissed China's landmark sexual harassment case on Tuesday, Weibo censors acted to muzzle a number of accounts that voiced support for the accuser, or even simply discussed the trial beforehand.

In 2018, the plaintiff Zhou Xiaoxuan, better known by the nickname Xianzi, filed a high-profile #MeToo case against Zhu Jun, a renowned state broadcast show host. Zhou claimed that Zhu sexually harassed her while she was an intern on Zhu's show in 2014. Chinese web users have closely followed the civil suit, which has also drawn international media attention.

Keep Reading Show less
Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. She can be reached at shenlu@protocol.com.

Protocol | Enterprise

Take that, Slack: ServiceNow gets a little closer to Microsoft Teams

ServiceNow is expanding its decade-long partnership with Microsoft as both companies intensify their rivalry with Salesforce.

Microsoft and ServiceNow's "coopetition" is aimed at a higher goal: undermining Salesforce, which is fast becoming the main rival for both vendors.

Photo: Uwe Anspach/Getty Images

For ServiceNow, Microsoft is the lesser of two evils compared to Salesforce.

After ditching Slack for Teams following the Salesforce acquisition, ServiceNow is deepening its decade-long partnership with Microsoft, promising co-development of new products and fresh integration capabilities within Teams, it plans to announce Thursday.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Latest Stories