When the telecom industry crashed three years ago, Nokia Corp. (NOK ) Chairman Jorma Ollila and his wife were refurbishing a 200-year-old manor house north of Helsinki. The easy path for Ollila would have been to focus Nokia on its strength in mobile handsets -- and to back away from tackling the much derided wireless Web. The pay-off: fewer headaches, more time in his new sauna.
But Ollila veered the other way. He doubled down his bid to turn Nokia into a software powerhouse, investing in everything from billing to messaging systems. He upped the ante against rival Microsoft Corp. by licensing Nokia's interface software to cell-phone competitors. He's become a leading force in building the mobile Internet.
And his efforts are paying off. Around the world, tens of millions of mobile customers using software from Nokia and others now click their handsets to get e-mail, swap photos, and download games -- just like on PCs. All told, researcher IDC figures the global mobile-data business will surge nearly 47% this year, to $29.5 billion. "We've made enormous progress," says the 53-year-old Ollila. Indeed, the mobile Net now has a distinctly Finnish flavor.