Are Emerging Markets Enough to Fuel Nokia's Ovi Store?

Nokia’s Ovi Store, after stumbling out of the gate last year, appears to have found its rhythm, becoming the storefront of choice for mobile developers in emerging markets. But whether it can turn that success into big money is unclear.

Deemed “a complete disaster” in the wake of its launch last May, the Ovi Store has gained remarkable traction in recent weeks. Nokia last week said the storefront had begun delivering a million downloads a day, and Greystripe — which recently scored another $2 million in funding —  today said it had extended support for its mobile gaming ad network to the Ovi Store. Research In Markets has confirmed the momentum, proclaiming that the Ovi Store has overtaken Apple’s App Store in “crucial high-growth emerging markets” in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.

That success is getting lost in translation, though, in Western Europe and North America. An executive from the mobile app analytics firm Flurry told me this morning that over the last year building for the iPhone has accounted for roughly 80 percent of developers’ time, while Java — the feature phone platform that Nokia dominates — accounts for only 1 percent. And Flurry has some experience in emerging markets, as it built and distributed email apps for feature phones in developing economies before shifting its focus to higher-end gadgets in more mature markets.

“To me, Nokia’s stated ‘progress’ in developing markets reveals that the company continues to lose ground in key markets; namely, North America, Europe and Japan,” Flurry VP of Marketing Peter Farago told me this morning via e-mail. “Apple is segmenting the high end of the market, rolling up the most desirable and affluent consumers with a handset against which no OEM has successfully competed to date, and that is supported by the power of the App Store (read: 3rd party developer community).  And where Apple may leave any vulnerability, Android is attempting to challenge.”

Nokia’s worldwide footprint remains unchallenged among handset vendors, of course, and its focus on location-aware devices could make it the manufacturer of choice for GPS-enabled handsets. But even as Nokia continues to gain ground in emerging markets, it’s worth asking whether the world minus the U.S. truly is enough.

Image courtesy Flickr user Mr. Wind-Up Bird.

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