MWC: Nokia Announce Location Aware Ovi Store

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The Ovi Store, announced by Nokia today at MWC, is the Finnish entry into the rapidly growing market for on-device software stores. Promoting their reach of 50 million devices and a simple route to market for developers, Nokia's presentation hit all the right notes. The revenue split of 70% to developers was also clearly announced, along with, which is open for developers to register from today (and upload from next month). More thoughts below.

Nokia Ovi Store

The biggest surprise from the stage was the expected launch date of the store (as opposed to the "lets sign up developers" mode which it currently is in)... the Ovi store will go live in some 13 weeks time, in early May. The perception is going to be that Nokia have been bounced into an announcement before the Store was fully ready, and the long lead time is a result of that.

The business realities are much more complicated than that. With multiple territories to contend with, hundred of operators, and a much wider range of devices and differing capabilities, the infrastructure requirements will be an order of magnitude higher than Apple's iPhone App store. That won't stomp the immediate comparisons.

In that sense it was good that the developer cut of 70% was mentioned clearly on stage, putting the perceived return to the developer on a par with those working on the iPhone, although the Q and A session after the presentation saw one journalist zero in on that number and asking for clarification. The 70% will be after any credit card fees or operator cut on the sale, and how much that will be could change depending on the network and the territory.

Nokia are stressing two areas where the Ovi store could be different, both of which are closely tied together - the recommendation engine and the location aware features.

While a recommendation engine is now to be expected for an online store (Amazon pioneered this many years ago), the addition of location data is new, and one presumes that by specifying who your friends are in the Ovi ecosystem, will provide much more accurate data to augment the "your buying patterns are similar to person Y" model that most stores use.

The addition of location awareness is genuinely different, and was demonstrated by the Ovi Store offering a Lonely Planet Guide when arriving at a new destination with your mobile phone, and while tour guides and travel apps are the easiest apps to consider for location awareness, I'm sure developers will use this to help push applications with ideas we won't have considered.

What both these new areas do bring attention to is the navigating through the Ovi Store. As more and more applications become available through a portal, the ability to browse the applications sensibly and quickly becomes one of the most important areas of the store. Developers cannot rely on being chosen as "app of the week" or making enough sales while on the "Newest 25 apps" list of the stores. If Nokia can help users browse the store and get to relevant applications without playing favourites, then the Ovi store could be one which people want to get involved with.

Developers can register now, and applications may be uploaded from next month. As with most services, the devil will be in the detail (for example there's no word on what testing or certification of applications will be required, as this is written). For now though, Nokia have laid out their store in broad terms, and it will be interesting to see what developers, networks and users make of the offering.

-- Ewan Spence, Feb 2009.