One of the must-have attributes for many smartphone users these days is easy access to a wide range of useful software. Having that can create economies and not having it can create device deathwatches. Up to now, getting software on an evaluation Nokia N900 was a bit — Linux-y. I know that’s not really a word, but it’s the best description I can think of. In the N900 Application Manager, you have to add software repositories, just as you often do in Linux distros. Is it a challenge? No, not really, although you do need to know all the details of the repository. But it’s not something your everyday mainstream user is going to know how to do. Luckily, they might not have to know how for much longer thanks to Ovi.
Nokia launched beta access to the Ovi store on the N900 yesterday via a 21 MB firmware update. I ran the installation without a hitch and was able to browse Ovi. I thought that the storefront would be a standalone Maemo application, but in actuality, it’s simply a link that opens in the native browser. Maybe that’s a good thing because it allows Nokia to make centralized changes to the Ovi storefront on the web servers, where it will immediately be seen by all Nokia N900 users.
The software selection is more on par with that of webOS (s palm) than of Android (s goog) or iPhone (s aapl), but there’s a few good titles available. Qik, Pixelpipe Media Uploader, Labyrinth, TuneWiki and several N900 themes jumped out at me. Navigation is fairly straightforward as the main categories include Recommended, Apps, Games, Audio & Video, and Personalization. And there’s a prominent Search feature at the top right on every screen. Being web based, the storefront is fast to navigate through. A three-star rating system helps find apps recommended by peers and app descriptions are clear and come with photos. All in all, the store is well organized, easily usable and fast to navigate. And while I don’t want to harp on the number of apps — I’m a believer in quality over quantity — the Ovi ecosystem has quite a bit of catching up to do. There are plenty of apps to try, but very few “brand name” third party titles in the store just yet. Hopefully, Nokia can court developers — either by offering gobs of money or by selling tons of handsets to capture the time, effort and attention of coders.