Nokia sets Symbian app challenge

Phone manufacturer announces mobile app competition to help drive interest and sales of Symbian devices, especially in emerging markets, says executive.

Nokia has announced a global developer challenge through its developer program, Forum Nokia, intended to help harvest new applications for its Symbian mobile OS.

The "Calling All Innovators" contest is aimed at driving Nokia handset sales by popularizing the OS, especially for new markets, according to a key Forum Nokia executive. One of the three competition categories aims to encourage development of applications for emerging countries.

Tom Libretto, Forum Nokia vice president, told ZDNet Asia in an interview, there is a lack of applications meant for emerging markets, as the majority of mobile developers are from more advanced nations.

"This competition aims to get developers to think about the needs of these markets... There is a whole different set of needs that the developer ecosystem can help to address," Libretto said, naming examples such as real time market updates and weather information delivered over inexpensive means such as SMS.

For a farmer in India needing to make a long trip each day to different markets, it would be helpful to know in advance the prices of wares at the different locations, so he can make an informed decision, he said.

Such applications are aimed at making Symbian devices popular in these new markets, which Nokia hopes will drive sales of their devices, too.

According to Libretto, an increasing proportion of Nokia devices are being sold in emerging markets, which is helping to drive demand for these applications.

Nokia recently bought out the Symbian software maker, and plans to release the mobile OS under the open source license in 18 to 24 months' time.

With other device makers getting access to Symbian, this competition may help boost business for more handset vendors than just Nokia. Libretto said: "We just want apps to ultimately make our devices more attractive... Our job is to differentiate Nokia's handsets by way of other factors like price and form factor."

Besides the category of "emerging markets", the competition also includes two other categories: one focusing on apps that reduce environmental impact, and the other will feature advanced ways of utilizing phone technology.

For each category, first place winners will receive US$25,000 and a trip to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next year, where the winners are due to be announced. These teams are also guaranteed distribution of their apps through Forum Nokia's distribution channels.

Second place winners will receive US$10,000 and third place, US$5,000.


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