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With An Eye To Innovate, Nokia Names Henry Tirri CTO In Silicon Valley

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Nokia (NYSE: NOK) has seen a fair few management changes in the last year; but this one you could see coming from a mile away: Richard Green has now formally stepped down as CTO of the company and is getting replaced by Henry Tirri — who had assumed Green’s duties when he first went on a leave of absence in June 2011.

Nokia has not commented on why it has made the change, but the shift to Tirri from Green underscores the transformation that Nokia has undergone this year, from a vertically-integrated device and software company, to one that has now decided to use a third party’s platform — Microsoft’s.

Nokia says Green, an American, is leaving Nokia effective today. That includes also stepping down from his role on the Nokia Leadership Team (the management board), to which he had been appointed in February 2011. Green will be returning to the U.S. to “pursue new opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Tirri, a Finn, will be based in Nokia’s Silicon Valley HQ in Sunnyvale, California — a sign of where the company is focusing its innovation efforts. His responsibilities will include “setting Nokia’s technology agenda both now and in the future, and driving core innovation to enable business development opportunities,” says Nokia.

Green, who had been with Sun Microsystems for nearly 20 years before joining Nokia in May 2010, was a platform expert first and foremost, so when Nokia made the decision to go with Windows Phone, outsource Symbian (including all those Symbian engineers that Green would have originally managed), and drop its focus on MeeGo, the expertise Green brought to the table was perhaps not as essential anymore.

Tirri, on the other hand, has a research background, focusing on cutting-edge innovations in mobile. Before taking on the role of CTO he was head of Nokia’s research center and had been working in R&D for Nokia since 2004.

That experience fits in perfectly with how Nokia sees itself in the future: rather than developing platforms, it wants to put more attention on how that platform gets used and advances in the device itself.

And while patents were not mentioned by Nokia in the release, the way an innovator can help grow the company’s patent portfolio — another potential source of revenue in the future — no doubt is something the Nokia board is also considering these days.