Nokia adds final flourish to Ovi Store

Nokia has announced an attention-grabbling content deal ahead of the global launch of the Ovi Store next month with Tim Kring, the creator and producer of hit TV show Heroes.

Kring and Nokia are working on a multi-platform "immersive" narrative that will be distributed through the Ovi Store. No doubt content with a Kring stamp will be cool, but it is also a reminder that Ovi Store is meant to be more than just an application store, or at least in Nokia's mind.

Ovi Store is positioned as a full-blown entertainment channel with an application store attached, which makes it different and more ambitious than most of the other app stores hitting the market. This is partly why Nokia makes such a big play of the personalisation, location and social media features that underpin Ovi and which it hopes will provide differentiation, for both users and developers.

Point & Find has great potential

The content deal with Tim Kring was accompanied by the release of the beta version of the Point & Find application that Nokia demonstrated at Mobile World Congress. The application allows users to point their phone at physical objects, initially movie posters, and access related information and services on the Internet.

It's a useful tool that uses key elements of the phone: camera for capture, GPS for location and the browser to pull the relevant services via search.

The concept is not new and there are similar image/barcode reader type applications on the market from companies like NeoMedia and ScanLife. A challenge facing these vendors is that they typically rely on users to download the applications, which Nokia can get around by pre-installing Point & Find on its devices.

There is also a wider strategic play behind Point & Find in that it is being positioned as a service platform. This could be used by developers to offer more personalised applications and also by advertisers, where the engagement capabilities of Point & Find could be attractive.

This fits nicely with Nokia's ambitions around mobile advertising, where it offers services to third parties including aggregated inventory of which Ovi is a part.

Don't forget the mobile operators

Mobile operators tend to get side-lined in the buzz surrounding device vendor application stores, mainly because many of the options reduce operators to little more than a pipe.

Clearly this is the last thing operators want and, in case we had forgotten, Verizon Wireless has just become a member of the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) initiative, founded by China Mobile, Softbank and Vodafone, that aims to create an operator-driven open widget platform and ecosystem.

JIL has plans to launch a common mobile widgets specification, developer kits, distribution and payment mechanisms later this year. This is pretty much the template for an application store and for what the operators clearly hope will be in effect a "˜widget application superstore' where operators are setting the agenda rather than device vendors. Whether they will succeed remains to be seen.

Different revenue models

Meanwhile Microsoft has shown a friendly face to operators by announcing at CTIA that it would seek a partnership model with them for its Windows Marketplace application store, due to launch later in 2009.

 

Details are sketchy, but collaboration is to include operator billing options and enabling operators to sell their own applications on Windows Marketplace. Microsoft is allowing operators to tap into revenue opportunities beyond traffic (unlike Apple) and this collaborative approach should win Microsoft allies in the operator community.

However, this is not unique as RIM has carrier-branded app store offerings where the operator takes as much revenue as it can negotiate with individual developers; Nokia allows operators to take revenues if the apps are paid for via operator billing, which is a choice available to the individual developer.

Eden Zoller, principal analyst, Ovum

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