Could Ovi Support Lead to a Subsidized N900 in the U.S.?

Nokia¬† yesterday extended support for its Ovi Store to its N900 via a firmware update, enabling users of the Maemo-based gadget to browse the shelves and download applications. It’s a move that may finally help the manufacturer score the carrier deal it needs to gain traction with its flagship device in the U.S.

The N900, which is Nokia’s first device to run the Linux-based Maemo 5 operating system, debuted late last year to positive reviews (which Om took as a sign that the Finns were beginning to get things right). Nokia has staked its future to Maemo — at least on high-end devices — in an effort to better compete with Apple’s iPhone, RIM’s BlackBerry and the Android OS. But while the N900 is supported by T-Mobile USA’s 3G network, the carrier doesn’t subsidize the gadget, leaving it with a price tag of $550-$700 — far out of the range of most consumers.

As Kevin noted over at jkOnTheRun, the store is a substantial improvement over the handset’s embedded Application Manager, which requires users to add software repositories in order to download new apps — a time-consuming process that many mainstream users don’t know how to do. While the selection of Maemo apps in the Ovi Store is still pretty thin, that is sure to change as Nokia expands its portfolio of Maemo-based devices later this year and beyond.

Nokia’s carrier relationships have never been its strong suit, but support for the Ovi Store may just be enough to entice T-Mobile to pony up some cash to defray the cost of the N900 and give it more mass-market appeal. And that would go a long way toward helping Nokia get back in the game in the U.S.

In-post image courtesy Flickr user SpeednutDave.

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