The Ovi Store launched today, promising thousands of applications for a range of Nokia’s S40 and S60-based handsets.
What does Nokia need to do to give the Ovi Store the best chance of succeeding? Here are five for starters.
1. Create an easy to use Store
It’s inevitable that all mobile application stores are being compared to the one Apple implemented for iPhone users.
There’s no denying that the iTunes App Store offers a very slick and integrated system for the user, and Nokia needs to do exactly the same if it’s to encourage users to spend and download.
Some early reports suggest that the Ovi Store’s current layout is overcomplicated and difficult to navigate. Nokia would do well to make the store as easy to use as possible.
Does the Ovi Store really need a separate app to be installed prior to downloading other apps? If so, Nokia had better make that a seamless process. If not, scrap it and just give direct access to a WAP or web site.
Nokia also needs to make sure that it’s easy to pay for apps. Users will always be able to purchase using a registered credit card, but some will also be able to pay via their mobile network provider. I sense complications could arise from this.
Nokia may be thankful that a lot of its users, by nature, won’t have experienced other mobile app stores, because at present it’s not as good as it could be.
2. Build a reliable system
With Nokia’s potential audience currently at 50 million users, compared to Apple’s ~30m, the store has to be rock solid.
It may seem a little unfair to look at users’ launch day experience, particularly when it’s worth noting that the iPhone app store experienced its own opening day problems, but it’s an issue that Nokia needs to sort out, and quickly.
With all the buzz surrounding the Ovi Store, demand isn’t likely to die down anytime soon, particularly once US users come on board.
A flaky service where users find it difficult to download and run apps first time will not go down at all well with either consumers or developers.
In reality, it shouldn’t be too complicated to beef up the servers. Yes, it will cost money, but if Nokia’s really confident about making this a success it will pay off in the long run.
3. Educate existing users
Ever since the first iPod, Apple has been very clever in tying users to iTunes. It makes it very easy to push new content and services to users en masse, and the App Store is no exception.
As well as its own online and offline marketing, Apple benefits from a lot of free word-of-mouth publicity that Nokia probably doesn’t.
The fact is that the Ovi Store should be really good news for Nokia users, particularly those who are already used to downloading stuff, because it pulls a lot of disparate content under one roof.
Nokia needs to get the word out to the significant proportion of its 50m customers who don’t already download.
Not doing so could cause the Ovi Store to flop a la Comes With Music and N-Gage.
Part of the issue is that the Ovi Store arrived a long time after the launch of many compatible handsets, so while the possibilities are there, the knowledge and publicity isn’t. The N97 may well help to change that, particularly for new and upgrading Nokia customers, but what about getting the word out for existing users of 5800, 6300, E71, N95 and other handsets?
Android phones got their Market very soon after launch, and (quite cunningly, in my opinion) Apple benefited from the negative press surrounding the initial lack of third party applications.
What will Nokia do to push the Ovi Store?
4. Showcase decent apps
The Ovi Store has a “recommended” section but Nokia could learn a lot from the iTunes and Android stores about promotion.
Once again, Apple has a distinct advantage because it can cross-promote iPhone apps on iTunes, putting them in front of a huge audience and possibly even enticing non-iPhone users to consider a handset.
The Android Market doesn’t have that luxury but still prominently showcases recommend apps.
Nokia needs to ensure that it puts decent content in front of its users. Word-of-mouth buzz is great but it can’t rely on that.
5. Win over developers
An application store is only as good as the applications developed for it, so keeping developers happy has to be a priority for Nokia.
Despite whinging from a number of iPhone developers, Apple now has over 35,000 applications in its store, and counting. Granted, many of them aren’t good, but in pure numbers alone it’s impressive.
Ovi developers have quite a range of systems to choose from when it comes to creating apps, including Java and Flash, and unlike Apple’s store, there’s no direct cost to get in and start developing.
However, whereas Apple prides itself on an easy to use Software Development Kit, as does Android, there doesn’t appear to be such a system for Ovi – yet.
In other words, there are indirect costs to developing all but the simplest content for Nokia devices. I’ve already heard complaints from independent developers that Nokia is making it very difficult and expensive for them to build and test applications, if they’re even accepted as developers in the first place.
In addition, all apps have to be “Symbian Signed or Java Verified” – and both these cost money.
Perhaps Nokia likes it this way. The barrier to entry is higher which might suggest better quality apps. However, there have been some really good indy apps on the iPhone simply because the entry costs are fairly low.
Will developers flock to the device? Are the development costs worth it to get in front of that potential 50 million eyeballs?
Nokia needs to keep developers happy or they may well end up moving elsewhere.
Are you a Nokia user browsing the Ovi Store, or a developer itching for fame and fortune? Share your thoughts on the launch and the way forward for Nokia in the comments below.