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Developers Say Nokia's Ovi Store Needs Fixing

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A recent developer survey from Open-First reveals that Nokia’s Ovi Store is lagging in several key areas with nearly 20 percent of the participants unlikely to use Nokia’s app store in the future. Although the majority of developers surveyed will continue to support Nokia’s (s nok) ecosystem, more than 42 percent said Ovi is below average when compared to other app stores, such as those from Apple (s aapl) and Google (s goog). These responses indicate that Nokia doesn’t only have to play catch up with its smartphone operating system strategy, but also with the marketplace that’s helping to power device sales.

The survey results — available online through a Scribd document — indicate that Nokia is flagging in the areas of Quality Assurance and support communications. A full 40 percent of developers were less than “somewhat satisfied” in the overall submission and publication process used to get an app in the Ovi store, saying the process is complicated and too lengthy. Worse, a point I’ve made in the past: With so many Nokia handset devices, developers struggle in the management and selection of supported devices.

Some developer quotes highlight the focus points that Nokia’s Ovi Store is contending with:

  • “When we first uploaded our apps to the OVI store, it took months for them to be available for purchase.”
  • “Have less [sic] phone models so we wouldn’t have to worry about what models support our software.”
  • “Step by step uploading process for content — so when a step is completed it is saved and if something goes wrong you don’t have to do everything over again.”
  • “The results from the QA process can [sic] need follow-up questions and discussion, and it is not clear how to actually proceed with such issues.”

To be fair, developers have voiced similar or related complaints with Apple’s own iTunes App Store process. And Google’s Android Market has room for improvement as well. The main difference though is that both of those platforms have sales momentum in the high-end smartphone segment that Nokia currently lacks. Both platforms are eating away at Nokia’s market share.

That aspect could partially explain why 70 percent of Ovi Store developers in the survey are creating software for stores other than Nokia. Nokia is touting plenty of easy app development methods through web standards and the Qt cross-platform framework, but high smartphone sales can lead to high software sales.

Another reason devs aren’t monogamous with Nokia is the lower-than-expected return on creating software for Nokia devices: 80.7 percent of developers are earning less than they expected. Not every developer on Apple or Google devices is a success story either, but when you combine lagging handset sales and a reactionary smartphone strategy with an app store that needs development in its own right, developers are wise to hedge their bets.

I wish the survey asked whether it would matter to developers if Nokia adopted Android for smartphones going forward. I think it would, for the sales momentum reason alone. Even though the Android Market is far from perfect, it currently looks to be the only challenger to Apple’s software store.

Related GigaOM Pro Research Report (sub req’d):

The App Developer’s Guide to Choosing a Mobile Platform

22 Responses to “Developers Say Nokia's Ovi Store Needs Fixing”

  1. The financial success of app markets should drive the price of associated mobile OS’s negative – if Apple, Google, RIM and Nokia will be getting money from app sales, carriers will demand their piece.

    Apple, RIM and Nokia, as integrated phone suppliers, can negotiate app store revenue shares directly. How does/will this happen with HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others who use the Android OS?

    Or am I totally off base with this?

  2. Full disclosure: I am with Nokia’s North American Comms team.

    It is unfortunate that the full report has not been posted to provide a more balanced view. So I would like the opportunity to do that:

    An important item from the report is not mentioned in this post: Developers recognize the improvements Nokia has made on Ovi Store in the past year and more than 80% would be sticking with Nokia and Ovi with the expectation that their experience would continue to improve.

    We recognize that we must continue to do better to address developer’s needs. One of the biggest concerns developers have is the developing for multiple platforms. With the introduction of the Qt SDK, developers can not only develop for Nokia’s future Symbian devices but also for our future MeeGo-based devices AND the apps will also work on most of the latest Nokia Symbian devices already in market.

    We look forward to making continual improvements and winning back the developer’s mind and heart with great devices, open APIs, easy to use tools and global marketing opportunities.

    Karen Lachtanski

    • “It is unfortunate that the full report has not been posted to provide a more balanced view. So I would like the opportunity to do that:

      Karen, I did post the link to the full report in the blog post. ;)

      I appreciate your points and your time to offer up a Nokia perspective. And most importantly, it’s good to see that Nokia is listening for feedback and planning to improve.

    • Karen, while you’re here: what is Nokia doing for end-users to feel confident that they can buy a phone and have it supported by Nokia (in non-developer/”hacker” form) for more than six months? Ari Jaaksi and others spoke extensively about a year ago before the N900 launch how the N900 was step five of a six step process that would lead to mass-market adoption of Maemo and that the N900 would be upgraded; when you partnered with Intel to bring Maemo/Meego to smartphones, notebooks, netbooks, laptops, desktops, toasters and everything in between, a $650, less than year old phone fell by the wayside.

      It disappoints me tremendously to see that Apple, of all companies, continued to support the 2G three years on, has continued to support the 3G in a limited way three years on, while a nine month old top of the line Nokia phone has already reached end of the line. Where is your commitment to end-users? Having a base of end-users is also something developers would like to see, and Nokia keeps up-ending on them.

      • With the Nokia N900 already being deprecated, I think I’m done with Nokia for awhile (or forever). Promises for support, better experience through the product’s life cycle from the 770, to the N800, to the N900 for me have been the same cycle for me. Big launch and then slow death. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Three times? I must be masochistic. I have 3 useless maemo devices sitting on my desk.

        Bye Nokia. Thanks for creating very little customer loyalty. On to greener pastures…

      • Hi Arun, We are committed to providing software updates to the Nokia N900 as evidenced by the most recent software update in May. Just because the N900 will not turn into a MeeGo-based device does not mean we will not continue to support it as a Maemo-based device.

        Our partnership with Intel to move MeeGo forward is in the interest of providing an experience where customers can experience a similar user interface across multiple types of devices. Similarly for developers using Qt to develop on will be able to develop across a wide variety of devices.

        I am using the N900 myself. thanks.

      • Aren, see phi’s comment above for a slightly longer than a year perspective on Maemo. Simply put, Nokia has not proven to be credible when it comes to long-term support for its devices, regardless of whether it’s “just” a customer or OPK who uses them. Witness the debacle that was the N97 and the N95 before that, and the N80 before even that – beta (or poorer) quality firmware at launch, promised updates that came months late or not at all, and the product was abandoned shortly thereafter. And we know full well that there are “limited” numbers of people working on Maemo/Meego, and you know as well as I that relatively soon, we’ll see a “Nokia has decided to focus on the future”-type statement which will mark the EOL for a less than year old $650 device.

        Sorry, you can’t win until you make up your mind whether you’re a hardware company or a software company. If you’re a software company, as you claim, then it’s time to start acting like one, and supporting your devices with software. Most software companies support several years worth of hardware, and outstanding ones, like Microsoft, support hardware for a decade or longer despite having no control over the exact components, while Nokia can’t manage to support a year old phone which it designed and built ground-up.

      • “Nokia has not proven to be credible when it comes to long-term support for its devices”

        Nokia N95: Released March 11 2007. Last firmware update: V31 released February 2009.

        Nokia 5800: Released 2 October 2008. Last firmware update: v50 released April 2010.

        Your statement is simply not true.

      • checks US-spec N95 for updates

        Nope – last update v15.x.y.z

        checks US-spec 5800XM for updates

        Nope – last update v5.x.y.z

        Sorry, but unless you’re willing to hack your phone just to get updates, you can’t rely on Nokia to update their phones.

  3. If a web search company and a computer company are kicking your ass in the field of mobile phones, then there is something wrong here.

    So Alok, not sure I agree. The revenue share of apps sold on the stores is not insignificant and not sure why Nokia has to let Google have that. Nokia has to extend their core competency from phone widgets to phone experience to see growth. If phones is all you got, HTC and Samsung will eventually beat you.

  4. The Ovi store is not the only thing that needs to be fixed at Nokia. Everything, including the hardware, OS, apps, community management, etc. requires immediate attention if Nokia is to survive in the smartphone space.

    Needless to stay, this can prove to be an expensive proposition. More importantly, Nokia needs to prioritize what are the most important issues and what is that Nokia can fix reasonably well.

    To me, it seems a simple solution – Nokia should adopt Android wholeheartedly. This would imply that Nokia will not have to expend resources in managing and developing OS, apps, community engagement. Instead, Nokia could focus on its core competence – building quality hardware. This will bring back some focus at Nokia, which seems to be missing completely at the moment.

    • It’s a simple solution. It’s also the wrong one.

      Incidentally, given that Nokia have restructured twice, the man in charge of handsets is now the guy responsible for the original phenomenally successful N Series handsets, they’ve overhauled the OS and UI for the short term and long term (Symbian^3, Symbian^4 and MeeGo), they’re engaging their community actively and the hardware for the N8 is top notch what else do you propose they do?

      Emotive statements are easy. Hard facts are more worthwhile.

      • The problem is Nokia is overstreched now. All companies in the mobile business now specialize in one thing – be it hardware or software. Only Apple combines both, but it’s because of their accumulated experience in OS (iOS is a shoot-off from MacOS) and deeply aligned hardware. And Apple actually does one thing – iPhone, one model. Nokia has to catch up on OS AND hardware all the while keeping tabs on different models – X6, N8, N800 etc. And who can expect NOkia to do well on all fronts while their competitors specialize in one?

    • This assumes that fixing the HW + combining it with a commodity offering = recipe for success. Even if true, they probably want to control their destiny and not rely on outsiders, for pride and strategic reasons. I dont know how you fix them – I see their market share chipping to the point that they become a non-player and lose relevancy in the mobile landscape. You only have to look at the PC, Server, Internet and other industries – old with the old/in with the new occurs all the time.