Ovi Store A discussion with Eric John

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Ovi store is expected to launch in a few weeks, ahead of the release of the Nokia N97, and become available on millions of existing S60 and Series 40 devices from Nokia. I caught up with Eric John, Director of Media Product Marketing for Nokia Services, to discuss the developer proposition offered by Ovi store.

Richard: Hi Eric, thanks for finding time to talk about Ovi Store. Can we start with the big question: Will Ovi Store work when Nokia’s earlier attempts at on-device sales portals have been perceived as less than totally successful?

Eric: We have been learning about selling software in a mobile environment through initiatives such as Download! These initiatives have been successful, but we always want to do better. Ovi Store is the result of that learning and I believe will achieve significant success in growing the market for software on Nokia devices.

One of the challenges in selling software for mobile devices is making it discoverable. A key value proposition in Ovi Store is that it leverages the unique features of Ovi and Nokia’s devices to introduce new methods of discovery. So users can find out about the software their trusted Ovi contacts have purchased or receive recommendations based on their location. So, if you travel from New Zealand to Los Angeles, Ovi Store can offer you software travel guides to Los Angeles. If you have a friend who made the same journey recently you could check their software purchases and find out if they recommend a specific guide.

This makes Ovi store significantly different from your typical mobile software website; where you either get a confusing plethora of stuff, where you can never find what you want, or a narrow list of software, that does not include what you want.

This difference is also going to be supported by scale, while the Nokia N97 will be the first device to feature Ovi Store, it will be progressively rolling out on the more than 200 million devices running Download!

So we believe that Ovi Store will offer a new and unique approach to content discovery which, because it is relevant to the user, will drive new software sales and at the same time have the volume to offer developers meaningful revenues.

Richard: So will the store only be available as an on device portal?

Eric: There will be an XHTML version of the store that will support credit card purchases to compliment the embedded device version that supports carrier billing. At launch we expect to have operator billing supported in eight countries.

Richard: Will it cover Series 40 devices too?

Eric: Yes, there will be a store for Series 40 to complement the S60 offering. These will be the main two platforms we support, but you should look out for other announcements in the future.

Richard: What criteria does software submitted to Ovi Store have to fulfil? Will Nokia be vetting titles?

Eric: Any content that can be Symbian Signed or Java Verified will need to be. So we will be supporting any content that can be packaged in one of these formats, so we can easily include Python applications, for example, in addition to Symbian C++ and Java applications.

We will also be accepting content that does not need signing, such as WRT widgets.

Flash content will also be supported by the store and we expect our recently announced ten million dollar Open Screen Project - Developer Fund initiative, which we are undertaking with Adobe, will contribute to the Flash content. Flash application packages for Series 40 will be another exception when it comes to signing.

Ovi Store is a managed service, so developers and content will be vetted. For developers the key criteria for entering Ovi will be that they are a bona fide business, so when they register we will require a business ID appropriate for their home territory, generally this will mean a tax ID — so we can be certain revenue will be treated correctly for tax purposes. They can be a big business or a solo developer: As long as they have a business ID, everyone is welcome.

In terms of content, we will only be vetting to ensure content is appropriate and of a suitable quality. When I say appropriate, I’m meaning that content should not be offensive or in poor taste: We are not in the business of limiting innovation and competition.

Richard: You have indicated that several operators will integrate Ovi Store with their billing – how will this affect the publicised 70/30 revenue split?

Eric: I believe we have been clear that the revenue split is after operator billing charges and any applicable taxes. Typically operator billing charges will be around forty per cent of the purchase price. However, this needs to be considered against the fact that operator billing offers a seamless purchase process to the user. This normally results in a higher level of sales compared to credit card purchases.

Richard: Despite the benefits of using operator billing, some developers may want to compensate for what they see as a loss of revenue, will they be able to do that?

Eric: Developers are able to pick the price at which their application sells, and that will be the price to consumers whether they choose to buy with a credit card or via operator billing. Developers can however choose which markets to sell into, they could make their application available exclusively for credit card based purchases or choose to sell exclusively via operator billing or use both channels.

It's a question of how much reach the developer wants to give their application. I certainly think that the ease-of-use and user acceptance of operator billing easily outweighs any perception of lost revenue from paying for the operator’s billing charges.

Perhaps the most important issue here is transparency and we plan to be open with developers about exactly what revenue splits will be taking place. I believe this is all clearly laid out in the terms and conditions, so everything is on the table. Ultimately we want to work with developers to optimise sales, get as many applications onto as many devices as possible, and help them grow their businesses.

Richard: While you have had some success in gaining the cooperation of operators, do you have concerns that you could be seen as cannibalising their software businesses?

Eric: We have been keeping our operator partners informed of the Ovi Store development as we are certainly aware that it could have been viewed negatively by them.

However, I believe we have created an offering that has quite a different value proposition to that offered by most operators. We’re looking at highlighting applications based on a user’s social connections and their location. We believe this will drive sales of applications that may not be seen in an operator’s store. In fact, I believe Ovi’s recommendation mechanism could be a catalyst to new types of applications.

Ovi Store is going to drive ARPU for operators. Ultimately the success of Ovi Store is about achieving benefits throughout the value chain.

Richard: How do you see Ovi Store catalysing new applications?

Eric: Having applications recommended by location and through social networks is new. Couple this with the ingenuity of our developer community and I know we will see new types of application emerge.

We have always supported developers through Forum Nokia. Ovi Store is part of our continued commitment to developers. Its ability to give developer’s applications worldwide exposure, coupled with the advances in device features and I’m sure we will see a whole new era of breakthrough applications.

Richard: For developers who are interested in getting involved, what is the next step?

Eric: Any developer interested can sign up at publish.ovi.com. Once their details have been reviewed, they will be given access to the publish to Ovi tool, with which they can upload applications for inclusion in Ovi Store.

As a bonus, here's a short information video, from Nokia, explaining the Ovi Store for publishers: