Nokia Opens Its Own Mobile App Store

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Apple led the way with its iPhone Apps store, and Microsoft has announced similar plans. Nokia is solidifying the trend of phone manufacturers becoming distributors of third-party software for their devices.

First Apple did it, and Microsoft is expected to announce its own this week. But Nokia beat the operating system vendor to it, announcing its own mobile application store for the upcoming N97 and other Nokia mobile devices.

The Nokia Ovi Store, announced at the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009, will officially open for business in May, according to Nokia officials. The N97, which will be released in June, will be the first phone to have the store software preintegrated, but other Nokia phone users will be able to download apps when the store opens.

Nokia is the third major cell phone vendor to offer an online app store, behind Apple and Google. Research In Motion is expected to announce a store for its BlackBerry line of phones, and Microsoft—the only non-hardware manufacturer in the group—will debut its Microsoft Mobile Windows platform app store this week.

Service carriers, such as Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, all have their versions of online app stores, but the trend is turning toward manufacturers offering downloadable apps.

Developers can start downloading their apps to the Ovi Store in March, and will get 70 percent of the revenue derived from their apps, according to Nokia. Users can expect to see apps available from such companies as Electronic Arts, Lonely Planet, Facebook, AccuWeather and MySpace, to name a few.

Although the majority of the apps in the Ovi Store will have a consumer flair, Nokia hopes business and enterprise apps will find a place in the store, as has happened with the iPhone store. For now, however, Nokia hopes to capture a new breed of app-hungry mobile device users with a store that goes beyond the click-to-download experience.

“This is not just a place to find applications. It’s a smart store that is not just for smartphones,” says Niklas Savander, executive vice president of services and software for Nokia. “It actually suggests things you might like and adds social location dynamics to show you relevant applications. And it shows you what your friends have bought. And it changes the inventory based on where you are,” through GPS technology.

Nokia plans to integrate the Ovi store software into all its phones starting this fall.