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Nokia Corporation (NOK): Is Christmas Elop’s Last Stand?

Nokia CorporationNokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) was a well-respected and very popular brand of mobile-phone handset during the 1990s and early in this century, but i has seen its market share dwindle over the last several years, especially as the company has failed to keep up with innovations in the high-end smartphone market, now dominated by the iOS from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and the Android operating system by Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) – specifically Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. handsets.

Stephen Elop, formerly of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), was hired two years ago as the Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) CEO, given the charge of turning around the slump. But with his contract up in early 2013, he is running out of time to justify a new contract with the company, and the “botched” launch of the new Lumia handsets that will run the new Windows Phone 8 operating system from Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) – botched  in that the market sent the stock sharply lower because while some people liked the technicals of the handsets, the fact that the company did not reveal price points, carriers or release dates dramatically affected investor sentiment.

And now that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has had pre-orders for 2 million iPhone 5 devices for release this Friday – with the Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK)  release date for Lumia presumably as soon as late October or early November – to coincide with the Windows 8 launch by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) – it seems that Elop’s gamble to dump the proprietary Symbian operating system and instead hitch the future of Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) onto Microsoft Windows has a very limited opportunity to work.

Several analysts are suggesting that unless Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) has a very successful Christmas holiday season – though the numbers that would constitute “successful” were not specified – it’s likely that Elop will be on the hot seat if he wants a new contract. The stock has rallied somewhat in the last few months, but it is below where it was at the time of the Lumia launch. For the sake of investors in Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) stock – including hedge-fund manager Jim Simons of Renaissance Technologies – the definition of “successful” may need to be pretty specific.