As BlackBerry, Jolla, Mozilla, and Microsoft know, filling up a new app store can take some time. Of course, there's one way to speed up that process — leaning on the massive supply of Android apps that already populate third-party stores.
The birth of a new app store should also be good news for app developers, offering an extra shop window to put their wares in front of buyers. So if an Android app appeared in the Nokia Store for Nokia's fledgling Android-based X devices — without any effort on the developer's part — that should be a good thing, right?
Not according to Anders Webb, the developer of the Android ADW.Launcher app, who was unimpressed — to put it mildly — when he recently discovered his app "and possibly more" had been "uploaded" to the Nokia Store without his permission.
By email, he was told that all he needed to do to let users download the app from the Nokia X store was "allow the Nokia Store team from Microsoft to contact him".
Exactly how his app arrived in the Nokia Store is an interesting story, given that it's highly unlikely that Microsoft/Nokia would take the app from Google Play.
The answer to the conundrum looks to come from a lesser-publicised aspect of Nokia's and Opera's partnership around the launch of the Nokia X range. The two companies struck an agreement whereby they agreed to publish Android apps that had been submitted to a store known as Handster on the Nokia Store as well.
"Based on Handster’s existing agreements with its developers, they have granted distribution rights to Nokia for these free Android apps which have been published in the Nokia Store," Nokia said in a blogpost at the time. Opera acquired Handster in 2011 to bolsters its own Opera Mobile Store.
According to XDA developers, that agreement could be how Webb's app ended up in Nokia's store.
Opera said that when developers submit their apps to the Opera Mobile Store via the Opera portal, they tick a box to agree to terms and conditions before signing up. The terms and conditions say:
Additional Optional Distribution Channels. When submitting Content via the Portal, Content Provider may be offered the option of distributing its Content via additional distribution channels offered by Handster, Inc. (including other storefronts operated by third-parties). Such distribution is optional. By choosing within the Portal to distribute Content via one or more of Handster's distribution channels, Content Provider acknowledges and agrees that such distribution is pursuant to Handster's relationships with such third party storefronts and that Handster, Inc. bears sole responsibility under this Agreement with regard to such distribution.
An Opera spokesperson added: "After they have created an account, the developer is taken to an app submission page, which asks for an app description, imagery, any pricing information, etc. Below that on the same page is a section labelled 'additional Handster distribution channels'; here the developer uses tick-boxes to select or deselect which platforms to make the app available for, and Nokia Store is one of the platform options."
A spokesperson for Nokia's new owner Microsoft said: "Opera is one of our partners and they have publishing agreements to help developers expand their reach. Nokia Store is one of these channels. In order to keep applications updated and to secure the best consumer experience, developers have been given the option to have an account to manage their applications directly to Nokia Store. This process has been communicated to the developer community. We take privacy very seriously and have a good track record of close collaboration with developers."
Microsoft for its part had its own run-in with developers late last year when it was found to be publishing web apps for Windows Phone devices without asking the company's whose content they were based on. While it didn't necessarily harm anyone, doing so without permission rubbed some companies the wrong way.