Where is Nokia's Steve Jobs? Not available, just yet

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For the last few weeks I’ve become increasingly fascinated by someone at Nokia. That person is Anssi Vanjoki.

Vanjoki is an interesting guy. Last year he was named one of the 25 most influential people on the Web. Why? He is Nokia’s most visible advocate of what it still, perhaps rather quaintly, calls its “multimedia computers”.

And he’s not some grey executive. Back in 2002 he was awarded what was believed at the time to be the most expensive speeding ticket ever, $103,600, after being caught breaking the speed limit on his Harley Davidson motorcycle in Helsinki.

But this week he hasn’t been quite so visible. As Apple and Steve Jobs unveiled the fourth generation of the iPhone in San Francisco, there appeared to be not a murmur from him or Nokia, still the world’s largest maker of cell phones. Where was Anssi’s thundering response?

After all, this 19-year Nokia veteran will lead Nokia’s fightback against Apple and Google.

Next month the marketing chief will take over at Nokia’s mobile solutions group. It is tasked with researching, developing, and building Nokia’s next wave of phones using the joint MeeGo mobile Linux platform with Intel.

Is he keeping his powder dry? Maybe he is being typically Finnish, and reserving the right to speak only when he really does have something to say.

Perhaps it’s a feint, a tactic he picked up from his hobby of hunting bears?

Except… hold everything. That would make Steve Jobs a Finn as well. Because he never takes the stage unless he has a “boom”, right?

So maybe it’s time to throw the Finnish rule book out the window. Maybe it’s time for a fightback?

The day after Steve Jobs had left the stage of the Moscone Center I contacted Nokia’s press people. Surely, surely now, Nokia would come out fighting?

I mean, it wasn’t as if Nokia was sitting on its hands. The week before the iPhone 4G appeared, it had launched the C3, a very affordable 2G BlackBerry-esque QWERTY phone with Wi-Fi, email and social networking. It was loved in Indonesia.

Interesting. Could Nokia’s iPhone fightback be coming from left field, from the soft underbelly of the developing world?

Maybe Nokia would be listening to the flurry of advice coming from its own fanboys about what tips to lift from Steve Job’s keynotes.

Maybe ‘Frustrated-Pro-Nokia’ fans were starting to convince Nokia to come out swinging.

Maybe Anssi would tell me all about it?

I emailed their press people.

“TechCrunch would like to interview Anssi Vanjoki of Nokia please. Possible?”

Back came the response: “Hi Mike, Could you let me know what you would like to speak to Anssi Vanjoki about? Thanks.”

Hmmnn, I thought. Maybe they haven’t heard about the iPhone?

I tried again. Perhaps they needed reminding.

“How about the strategy for Nokia smartphones and Meego, going forward? I feel Nokia is not getting it’s answers out to the world about this. He is clearly the man driving the strategy.”

They replied: “We’re just looking into this for you now. When would you like to do this interview?”

Er, when the iPhone 5G launches?

I suggested this month might be a good idea.

Silence.

A day past.

“Hiya” I emailed. “Any movement on this? I would seriously like to do a proper interview. I think he’s potentially a game-changer at Nokia.” Had they not noticed no-one was writing about him and his strategy?

That got a response.

But not from Anssi.

Nokia’s PR team had instead “managed to secure an interview for you with our EVP Alberto Torres who we think would be a great match for your enquiry.”

Who?

Anssi, it turned out, would be in Singapore, launching “Nokia Connections” whatever that is.

But seriously, I’m sure Alberto is great, he is, after all, Executive Vice President, Solutions.

But he’s not the potential Steve Jobs of Nokia. He’s not my Anssi…

So, on Monday, I’m going to meet with Alberto, in the hope that it will bring me closer to Anssi. Because right now, he seems like Nokia’s only hope.

But unless we get to speak to him, we may never know.

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