Nokia needs to iron out app strategy

Summary:Phone giant's decision to limit app publishers on Ovi Store to registered companies a necessary evil, but it still needs clearer app store strategy, says analyst.

Nokia's decision to limit app publishers on its Ovi Store to registered companies is a "necessary evil", but its app store strategy still needs to be ironed out, says an industry analyst.

In a recent interview, the Finnish phone giant said to ensure mobile Ovi Store carries clean apps, part of its screening process encompasses permitting only registered companies to submit apps to its store.

This requirement, however, sets up a barrier for individuals interested in developing apps for the app store, as well as aspiring startups and entrepreneurs that may not have registered business licenses.

Marc Einstein, ICT industry manager at Frost & Sullivan, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia that the move is an effort to avoid some of the controversies seen at competing stores, such as offensive content that had ended up on Apple's App Store in the past.

As such, Nokia's move to limit app contribution is a "necessary evil", said Einstein.

He noted that while this might seem counterintuitive to Nokia's efforts over the past year to court developers, it is unlikely the reason developers are flocking to competitors such as Apple. Rather, he attributed it to the app store's popularity among users.

"Because you have to rewrite apps for different stores, developers want to maximize their time with [high-traffic] stores. I don't think the reason people aren't writing apps for Ovi is because they can't get in the door.

"The iPhone has had amazing traffic statistics where people are downloading the most [apps], so developers want to get on that platform more," Einstein explained.

Nelson Wee, Nokia's Asia-Pacific senior services marketing manager, explained in an e-mail to ZDNet Asia that the company established the policy "due to international tax complexities". It is also aimed at ensuring content on the Ovi Store is legal and authentic, he said.

"We are looking beyond just the quantity game and rather, focusing on the consumer experience [to] work with developers to surface the right content for each consumer, across more than 100 Nokia models," Wee said.

He pointed to a self-service facility at publish.ovi.com, which supports various content platforms such as Symbian, Java and Flash Lite.

Nokia should iron out app store strategy
Over the past year, various mobile phone industry players have come up with their own app stores, in efforts to replicate Apple's success with its own app store. Microsoft, for example, last year opened its Windows Mobile marketplace, while Research in Motion also announced its BlackBerry App World.

However, these "me-too" stores have so far fallen short of achieving the same gleam as Apple's App Store, said Einstein, adding that Nokia needs to work out its strategy regarding its various moving parts.

He pointed to Nokia's joint announcement with Intel at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, to come up with a new Linux-based platform called MeeGo.

This was an attempt to revamp its mobile app ecosystem, he said. The analyst noted that so far, there has been "a degree of confusion with Nokia's app store strategy" that the phone maker must iron out to attract developers.

Nokia has lost smartphone market share over the past year. The company in December 2009 announced plans to consolidate its handset lineup and focus on smartphones. It is also pushing its Maemo OS to developers, while continuing to support the Symbian OS.

Einstein said: "While Nokia has lost market share, it's still number one. It makes sense for them to try something in this space."

The alliance with Intel also helps to offer a broader concept of converging apps for PCs and mobiles, and allowing these to run on both platforms. This, he said, reframes the possible development scenarios for app makers.

Nokia, however, should synchronize its efforts across its different arms to make a concerted push into the apps space, said Einstein.

"You might expect confusion from a vendor so big, but it must find one strategy," he said.

Topics: Software, Apps, Software Development

About

Victoria Ho is a tech journalist based in Singapore, whose writing has appeared in publications such as ZDNet, TechCrunch, and The Business Times. When she's not obsessing about IT, you can find her tinkering with music and daydreaming about which guitar to buy next.

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