Vodafone walks through the Ovi with Nokia

Following their relatively recent announcement of a multimedia initiative, Nokia reports a big win with Vodafone having agreed to carry their Ovi platform on Nokia devices that are distributed through the operator. Ovi, which is Finnish for door, was to be Nokia's next big push towards becoming a multimedia company. One of its flagships under that umbrella, the Nokia Music Store, will now run alongside Vodafone's own music service.

Nokia's risk with the introduction of Ovi was that operators would reject having the Ovi links on the phones that they were distributing (not uncommon for them to do), so to have the "world's largest operator by revenue" amongst their ranks is no small feat. Otherwise, Nokia would have seen limited distribution in markets where handset prices are subsidised by carriers, which is true in most!

With Nokia having bolstered its portfolio of offerings in recent months even more (the acquisition of Navteq being the biggest one), this opens the pipeline to a much richer content experience, and this is what might have pursuaded the good folks at Vodafone: with carriers struggling to come to terms on the "right" treatment of content to maximise sales and user experience, a door to a fully-packed store of content and applications must sound tempting.

It might actually mark a turn in the market: could it become the handset manufacturers who will take the lead in the content space and become the funnel through which content providers feed their wares to the consumer? It would make sense in that it is arguably easier for an OEM to ensure that there is optimal performance for a product on a device (after all, they manufacture the device). Such a model would bring relief to the operators who would continue to control the billing relationship with the consumer and hence alleviate fears of removing that bond but they would be a big step closer to becoming the dreaded bit pipe as had happened to ISP on the Internet. I have argued before that this process would - in any event - take longer, so that might alleviate fears.

It is breaking into the control-driven model of operators, and that is a significant development in itself. Nothing will of course change for the content providers, at least not in the short term: it is just that they need to ring a different doorbell now (or rather an additional one...).


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