Why getting your app in the Nokia App Store shouldn't come as a surprise

Shane Schick

Let's make one thing perfectly clear: When we talk about "discoverability" in the app space, we're talking about consumers discovering apps. Not app stores discovering developers and then plucking them from obscurity into their app stores. Hopefully a recent incident involving Nokia won't muddy those waters too much. 

An alarming story started making the rounds online earlier this month that featured a screen capture of an e-mail from Nokia to a developer suggesting it had uploaded its app without consent. "We already created your Nokia Store account and uploaded your app," it reads. "All you need to do to reach potential new users is allow the Nokia Store team from Microsoft to contact you." The whole thing had the air of one of those "Congratulations! You've just won a free vacation to the Caribbean!" phone or e-mail scams. 

Perhaps predictably, it turns out there was a little more to this than it seemed. As a story on Slashgear noted:

"Via an Opera browser on your smartphone, you can run any app on the Opera Web Store. A neat workaround, but one that may have run amok in this scenario. It seems fine print in the distribution agreement has lent itself to Nokia X getting the apps it wants. Opera also runs the Nokia X store, where the app in question was surreptitiously uploaded to. Though it appears as though Nokia is finding apps and bootlegging them for the X, it's really Opera that's doing the heavy lifting, here."

Microsoft, which now owns Nokia, responded in a statement to ZDNet that: "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." That's true, but even if uploading the apps was legally acceptable, the optics could clearly have been better. 

Of course, developers often want their apps distributed as widely as possible, and the submission and review process in some app stores has become increasingly infuriating. Still, inclusion in any app store should probably be something developers do proactively and intentionally, so that it feels like part of a strategy rather than something that's been taken out of their hands. 

Clearly the objective here is to make the Nokia App Store more competitive by providing a wider range of great Android apps for the Nokia X. To that end, a more effective developer relations tactic might not be to automatically add an app, but send a message to the developer that explains how distribution via its app store will assist with user acquisition, perhaps through innovative categorization or a "featured" status that might be difficult to come by in Google Play. Even a simple, "Once you join us, here's what you do," with a list of app marketing and retention ideas would probably lead more developers to happily welcome contact from the Microsoft team. As both developers and platform providers know, just getting into the app store--or obtaining a critical mass of apps in an app store--is just the first step.--Shane