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Nokia poaches former Palm executive

The handset maker hires Peter Skillman, who helped develop the Palm Pre, to help revive its smartphone business. The company recently has been shedding a lot of executives.

As Nokia sheds executives like a snake sloughing off dead skin, it hunts for new talent to revive its ailing smartphone business.

Peter Skillman
Peter Skillman at the Gel conference in New York in 2007. Good Experience

On Tuesday, the company confirmed that it has hired Palm Pre designer Peter Skillman to head up the user experience and services division for MeeGo, a Linux-based operating system that Nokia is developing with Intel and using on its next-generation N9 flagship phone.

Skillman, who worked at Handspring and Palm for 11 years, and was part of the team that developed the Palm Pre, reportedly left Hewlett-Packard last month. HP announced the acquisition of Palm in April.

While the Palm Pre never gained the sales success Palm had hoped for, the phone was lauded by analysts and reviewers for its design and easy-to-use user interface. Nokia didn't have any comment on the new hire, but it's clear that the company is looking to bulk up its team to be more competitive in the smartphone category. Nokia is facing stiff competition from Apple, with its iconic iPhone, and others, such as Google, with the Android operating system.

At Nokia World 2010 in London this week where it unveiled a series of new devices, executives talked about the need to revitalize the business. A big part of these changes is getting rid of many top executives.

Last week, it announced that it was replacing its CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. Days later, it announced the resignation of Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president and general manager of its Mobile Solutions group and a member of Nokia's Group Executive Board. And on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Nokia Chairman Jorma Ollila will be stepping down from his position in 2012. A Nokia spokesman said he was aware of the reports of Ollila's departure, but his decision to step down had been expected prior to the current executive shake-up.

Olilla served as Nokia's CEO for 14 years. During his tenure, he was largely responsible for making the company the world's largest handset maker. He stepped down from the CEO post in 2006, replaced by Kallasvuo.

While new ideas and new management may be necessary to get Nokia back on the right track, the company has been through several reorganizations within the past three years. Starting over with new management is likely to slow the process of change once again. And in the fast-paced mobile-phone market, time is not on Nokia's side.