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For Nokia’s Ovi, the World (Minus the U.S.) Is Enough

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Tero Ojanperä, Nokia’s EVP of Services

For nearly two years, I have been critical of Nokia (s NOK) for a diverse set of reasons including its denial of competition from Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone, its hardware, and a botched launch of its Ovi app store. So last week when Tero Ojanperä, Nokia’s EVP of Services, decided to stop by to give me an update on the company’s Ovi service (and the app store), he knew it wasn’t going to be an easy meeting. It wasn’t, but it was a candid conversation during which Ojanperä made a compelling case for Nokia. “We have had our hiccups, and we have learned a lot,” he said and proceeded to share some numbers about 5-month-old Ovi.

  • Ovi Mail has more than 3 million subscribers, and carriers like the push email because it boosts data usage. Nokia has signed over 20 partners for a carrier version of Ovi Mail.
  • Downloads of apps on the Ovi Store are growing 70 percent per month, and every registered Ovi user has downloaded eight apps on average.
  • In terms of downloads, Ovi is the No. 2 app store, Ojanperä claimed.
  • The number of users downloading apps is going up 50 percent every month.

The company wants to localize the Ovi Store for 20 countries by the end of the first quarter of 2010. “Since we operate in so many countries, we have to create a local offering, and that is something we need to execute on,” Ojanperä said. Localization can mean instant success. In India, for example, Nokia’s music download service is becoming popular mostly because many people don’t have PCs and are using their phones to download music, he said. Similar trends are being observed in Brazil and Mexico, he added.

Nokia is going to be making a big push in mapping, Ojanperä said. “We want maps to be part of everyday life, and as a result, we are working on building a richer experience on top of the map,” he said. “I think it is going to become obvious that companies with mapping assets are at an advantage.” Nokia bought gate5 and Navteq as part of its efforts to get a toehold in mapping and location-based services.

QT, the new development environment, is not only going to help bolster Nokia’s mapping efforts, but it would make development for the company’s platforms easier, Ojanperä said.

Nokia believes the success of its Ovi Store and services is going to come from its traditional strongholds: Europe, Latin America and Asia. “We are competing for the mindshare, and in the U.S. it is critical and we need to be here and strengthen our presence,” Ojanperä said, while candidly admitted that currently “Ovi’s big opportunity is overseas — outside of the U.S.”

“We have 10 million touch devices in the market right now,” said Ojanperä, explaining why it makes sense for app developers to build for the Ovi Store. “You can make money.” These 10 million touch-based devices could also be the bedrock for making game applications for Nokia’s platform, he said.

Nokia N900 phone powered by the new Maemo OS.

Nokia has just enabled a brand-new games API plug-in that is pretty simple to use and allows game developers to integrate deeply with a device and its operating systems. For instance, it allows 3-D games to tap into device hardware so that the games can run faster. “We want development of games faster and easier on the Nokia platform,” Ojanperä said. This includes Symbian S60 and Maemo OS, which currently powers the recently released N900 device. (Related: “With N900, Nokia Still Not Close to the iPhone”)

Despite all the rumors, Nokia isn’t going to move away from Symbian OS, Ojanperä said. The company will drive Symbian into all its feature phones, and for high-end devices, it will focus its energies on Maemo, the Linux-based OS. “Ultimately every phone is going to be the smartphone,” he said.

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29 Responses to “For Nokia’s Ovi, the World (Minus the U.S.) Is Enough”

  1. I can understand semi fanatical users to be fooled by trends but I can’t really understand why would a professional developer/company would ignore symbian where a SINGLE MODEL has already hit 10M mark.

      • Sorry, but that’s nonsense – the vast majority of those 10 million touchscreen Nokia devices (this is not the same as all Symbian Touchscreen which is a higher number or all Symbian devices which is a vastly higher number) do have data connections and plans.

      • It’s almost impossible to buy a smartphone without a dataplan included in Europe. You can get E71s for free with ‘unlimited’ data for £15-£20 a month in the UK and they’re cheaper in some other European countries. That’s everything, all in.

        That’s partly why people in Europe buy them. You’d pay 3-5 times as much for an iPhone or Pre. Nokia’s Ovi service is free too, unlike MobileMe. Sure, the Ovi store has less apps but there’s less missing from Nokia’s phones in the first place.

  2. I was pretty surprissed reading this article on my Blackberry but given the claim it looks
    Like I have no choice but to get a pair of sore thumbs!


    Nokia claims 70 percent month on month growth but offers no download stats
    Nokia doesn’t disclose downloads by handset
    Nokia doesn’t disclose downloads by type (free vs paid)
    Nokia disclosed 10 million downloads globally for the first three months of ovi’s

    Getjar has done over 650 million downloads
    These are 100 percent free
    Facebook alone has done twice Ovis first three months downloads
    Ebuddy has done three times Ovis first three months downloads
    Getjars top 5 apps (top two plus nimbuzz, mig33 and opera) have done
    Alone X10 times ovi’s first three months downloads
    We have been big Nokia fans since back in 2005 and over 40 percent of our
    Global downloads come from nokia devices

    But given all the facts above credit must be given where credit is due:

    GetJar not Nokia is app store number two ;)

    My thumbs are killing me. Good night

  3. The man is lying when he says ‘OVI is the number 2 download store’. The other stores don’t release download numbers, so he can never tell. My guess would be that Android Market is 2 and Blackberry Store is 3.

    • Vic,

      Well, given the number of Android phones sold, I think it is safe to give him the benefit of the doubt. I have pinged a few app analytics firms and will update the post accordingly.

      Secondly, I have known Tero for sometime and I can say one thing: he is a very measured man and not one for hyperbole.

    • Vic,

      The total sales of Android devices has just passed the one million mark. Nokia sell a million phones a day (they sell approx 400 million phones per annum).

      Whilst Tero’s fingers are likely to be estimated I wouldn’t underestimate them given volumes like that.

  4. I’m afraid you’ve let Mr Ojanperä off very lightly. You should have asked him to name one developer who is making money from Ovi. There’s a very good reason why Nokia are not releasing sales figures.

  5. Daniel, I too have the N95 on AT&T I like the phone but find my browser crashing quite a bit and the memory being sapped up. I would never switch to a CDMA phone because I use the internet while I’m on the phone sometimes or get aim messages and don’t want my data connection to drop while on the phone.
    That being said I have ordered the n900 and will give it a go. If I don’t like it I will probably sell it off. Speaking of the Droid though a GSM version is being released in Canada by the start of the new year. This has multitouch capability. You could probably purchase an unlocked GSM droid once they come out in Canada and put it on your carrier. I’ve been eyeing the droid but also the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 which is launching Q1 2010

  6. Om, what I am hearing basically is that Nokia is going to continue to avoid doing Ovi in the US because it doesn’t sell enough phones or do enough deals with the carriers. And now we have a Catch-22 because the carriers are starting to consider the strength of a phones application store as it considers what phones to subsidize or not.

    I really think that Maemo is the direction for Nokia’s future smartphones, but I worry that its application landscape isnt as well developed as S60’s is right now. Of course developing for S60 and installing S60 apps has its own set of idiosyncrasies (hello certificate signing!).

    As it stands I’m still using my Nokia N95-3 NAM phone on AT&T and am mostly happy but I have been eyeing the N900 and am holding out judgement on it before making the $500+ plunge on a new phone. Especially when the Droid looks like a nice piece of hardware hampered by the fact its on CDMA and I want a GSM version of the Droid so I dont have to deal with Verizon’s “There’s a fee for that” mentality.

    • Daniel

      In a nut shell, the focus overseas makes a lot of sense. In doing so, they will be playing according to their strengths.

      Tero was right in saying that they are in a battle for attention of developers. I think they can grow Ovi overseas and hope that developers actually notice and start to develop for them and turn the tide.

      The way I see it, Maemo is about 12-to-18 months away from being a legit, all out superphone option. They have some work to do and it would be sometime before they start pumping out new phone models with Maemo and build market share.

      On the N900, well it works best on T-Mobile USA’s 3G network and is pretty solid. I am biased toward the CLIQ to be honest, but that is just me.

      PS: Motorola just released a Droid for US, Milestone which is GSM but apparently it is super expensive.