Henry Tirri appointed as Nokia CTO, joins Leadership Team

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Nokia has appointed Henry Tirri as Chief Technology Officer, he also becomes an executive vice president and becomes a member of the Nokia leadership team. Since Rich Green stepped down in June Tirri has been acting CTO; previously he was the head of Nokia Research Centre (NRC). Tirri will be based in Sunnyvale (California) and will report directly to CEO Stephen Elop.

Rich Green joined Nokia in May 2010, he joined the Nokia Leadership Team in February of this year. He departs Nokia today and will be retuning to the US to pursue new opportunities. As CTO, Green was charged with overseeing the direction of technological advancement in both Nokia's software and hardware groups. The February 2011 announcement saw a major strategic shift in Nokia's software strategy. While nothing has been discussed in public, it is possible that Green, as vocal supporter of the MeeGo and Qt strategy, may not have fully endorsed the change.

Moreover the role of the CTO office is necessarily changed under the new strategy. Stephen Elop has expressed his intent to actively exploit innovative solutions and ideas arising from Nokia's 13 research labs and bring them into products in the market more quickly. 

The new appointment of Tirri means the CTO's office returns to a leader with a research and development background. Tirri has more than 175 academic papers to his name across a number of fields including computer science, social sciences and statistics.

Nokia President and CEO Stephen Elop said:

"During his time at Nokia, Henry has provided Nokia technical leadership and challenged us to explore forward-looking technologies. In his new role, Henry will have the opportunity to make a greater impact and set the course for Nokia and our role in the mobile industry. The company would also like to thank Rich Green for the key role he played in assisting Nokia through a major transition. We wish him all the best success in his future ventures."

I met with Henry Tirri at Mobile World Congress in 2009 and have heard him speak on a number of subsequent occasions. At that first meeting the topics ranged from the role of open innovation in Nokia's research strategy to an estimate of when tele-transportation would become a reality. It's fair to say between the vibrant shirts (sadly toned down in recent years) and ebullient personality there is something of the mad scientist about him. However, beneath that first impression resides a razor sharp mind with a broad vision of the future.

With innovation, both in hardware and software, gaining ever more importance for product differentiation, his appointment as Nokia's CTO presents an opportunity for the company to make Elop's pronouncements on the importance of research and innovation a reality. 

A quote, from Henry Tirri, about the role of NRC, shows where this will be mostly likely come from:

"The mission of Nokia Research Center is to explore technology frontiers and solve scientific challenges today, in order for Nokia to deliver irresistible personal experiences tomorrow."

As CTO he will also help to oversee Nokia's many engineers. While the software scope is reduced, significant resources remains, with focus areas including higher levels of the software stack (applications and services), Series 40, Qt, WebKit and Linux internals. On the hardware side Nokia's activities remain considerable ranging from materials science, radio engineering, nanotechnology, sensing and more.