Nokia's interpretation of an app store will be Ovi, and it will launch later this month. This is a biggie since Nokia (according to its own numbers) still commands an imposing market share of - globally - 37%. True to its huge self, it now said it'll come out with all its guns blazing and kick its app store off with no less than 20,000 "items"! This is being compared to Apple's "few hundred" upon launch.
However, that contains of course quite a bit of a PR spin: Nokia does not only include applications in its count but also videos and "mobisodes", and on this definition, one would need to count in the 40,000 or so videos, 3,000 TV shows, etc that the iPhone had on offer via iTunes (numbers via Wikipedia).
So where does Nokia truly stand in May 2009? The company, once famed for cool design (7110 - also known as the "Matrix" phone anyone?) and intuitive UI (yes, really: in the pre-Java age, Nokia's were second to none when it came to usability and interface) seems to have lost a little of its gloss. Its devices still boast technical excellence (the N96 technically outsmarts every iPhone or Android device easily) but the sex-appeal is considerably lower. Nokia anno 2009 has a little more of a Siemens-like flavour: very well engineered but a bit dull and maybe, well, a little over-engineered. At a time when content finally seems to go mainstream, this is more than only unfortunate: Nokia's often announced push into the US (where it holds an uncharacteristically small market share) has faltered (again) but the company also seems to lose market share in regions where it previously was unassailable. Moreover, its incremental products, such as the Navteq business, appear to struggle, too (Navteq recorded net sales of only €132m in Q1/2009; compare that to a purchase price of $8.1bn!), as it is arguably being challenged by the - free - Google Maps (which most people I know prefer over the - paid-for - Navteq services).
Nokia's competition comes less from its traditional foes, Sony Ericsson (struggling itself), Samsung, LG or Motorola but from the newbies like Apple, RIM or HTC, all of which focus on the upper end of the market and leverage this with smart phones that comes - app store or not - with a vastly expanded range of apps and services. Apple has leveraged this in breathtaking ways but one must not forget the gains Blackberry-maker RIM has realized. And while this was not on the back of its app store (Blackberry App World launched only recently), Blackberry devices had always been used for more than only voice and SMS - data services were always at the core of the product.
So where will Ovi sit? Will it revolutionize the mobile phone mass market on the content side, too? Nokia's attempts so far were something of a mixed bag: Preminet must probably considered a failure, its successor NCD (Nokia Content Discoverer) was always a little bit in the shadows, too. N-Gage is a distinctly high-end service (with - anecdotally - 1m or so subscribers, which is small when you look at Nokia's overall market footprint), the P2P service Mosh was known (to the people who actually did know of it) for the piracy taking place on the platform rather than for commercial success. In short: Nokia's moves into content have not been an overwhelming success so far. Ovi has the opportunity to change this. Due to its massive market footprint, Nokia has the opportunity to turn more than 1bn devices into shop windows for content, and this outmuscles anything Apple could even dream of achieving by large margins.
However, the success of an app store is not being defined by the sheer number of content available on or through it but but at least equally by the functionality, the usability and discovery. This is where Apple has been doing so well: the combination and seamless integration of hardware and software and its content strategy out of one mould (with no carrier intervention at all) has lifted the bar for an interface significantly. It might look easy to copy this but it is not. Nokia has also been very (!) late to the game (bear in mind they first announced Ovi in 2007!), and it acknowledges this itself. It will therefore be very interesting to see how Nokia manages to execute it. Be not mistaken: if it succeeds, the content revolution on mobile has truly begun!
Mobile guru and blogger extraordinaire Rudy de Waele is bringing us the next iteration of the very successful (and exciting!) Mobile 2.0 conference to Europe this year. The 2-day event takes place in Barcelona on 18/19 June 2009 and focusses on the emerging mobile ecosystems and disruptive mobile innovation (for more on disruptive innovation [re-]read Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma"), grouped around six separate themes. This then looks as follows:
Rudy and his team have lined up a cool speaker line-up to illustrate each theme, comprising the creme de la creme of European operators, VCs, handset makers and application and service providers, including the CEO of Dopplr, Head of LBS at Vodafone, the CMO of Smaato, the Head of O2 Litmus, etc, etc.
The conference website can be found here. Sign up, it's well worth it!