Nokia Readies Its Ovi App Store For Smartphones

Nokia has officially announced at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, that it is launching an app store for its smartphones, which Nokia is calling the Ovi Store. The Ovi Store will be open to developers to upload content starting next month, and it will be ready for users to start downloading content beginning in May. The Ovi Store comes on the heels of Apple's highly successful App Store for its iPhone and iPod touch devices, and the growing Android Market for the nascent Android platform.

"The Ovi Store will consolidate the best experiences from the current content services including Download!, MOSH and WidSets to a single channel... The content will range from applications, games and videos to widgets, podcasts, location-based applications and personalization content for Nokia Series 40 and S60 devices."

Nokia has stated that "the Nokia N97, available in June, will be the first device to include the simple and easy-to-use storefront;" but it has also stated that "tens of millions of existing Nokia Series 40 and S60 users will be capable of enjoying the new service starting in early May." The implication is that while existing Nokia phones will be able to access the Ovi Store, that access will not be as seamless as it will be with future units, such as the N97. In fact, the FAQ on the OVI publisher's site states, that existing S60 and Series 40 devices will be able to access the Ovi Store "either by clicking and updating the Download! client found on the device, or via download from the device web browser." One of the advantages the iPhone has is the simplicity by which you can access the App Store, purchase, and download apps directly, using the iPhone's native interface. Nokia claims that it will continue to bring Ovi Store support to more devices over time.

The Ovi Store will offer more than just a standard bevy of applications, such as games, utilities, and news. If a user enables the Ovi Store's location-aware and "social discovery" features, the store will also offer personalized content suggestions based on where the user is physically located as well as what the user's social connections are downloading. Apps can be purchased using a credit card or "through operator billing."

Nokia claims that 70-percent of the gross revenue from app sales will go to the app developers. Developers can sign up for access to the Ovi Store here. Developers who sign up for access must choose what kind of content their apps represent, from a list of categories that currently includes ten "Applications," ten "Games," three "Personalize," and three "Audiovideo" subcategories. Nokia has also set up an Ovi publishers Facebook group as well.

Bringing an app store online for Nokia makes a lot of sense, as there are presently more Nokia smarthones worldwide than any other type of smartphone. Nokia phones have a much smaller piece of the smartphone market in the U.S., however--a recent survey by AdMob shows that Symbiam OS-based phones represent only about 2-percent of all smartphone-based Internet requests in the U.S. So the addition of Nokia's app store to the app store marketplace probably won't make a big difference to the U.S, market. However, apps stores from Microsoft and Palm--which are both expected to come online sometime this year--will have more of an impact in the U.S.--AdMob estimates that Windows Mobile smartphones make up about 14-percent of the U.S. market, and the brand-new Palm webOS operating system will be used in the upcoming Palm Pre, as well as other future Palm smartphones.