Developers, don’t forget Nokia: there’s massive potential here

This week we’ve got a special 5-part report for developers: we’re assessing each of the five major smartphone and tablet app stores – iOS Android Windows Phone 7 BlackBerry and Nokia – and taking a look at the relative strengths and weaknesses of developing for each platform. Today we finish up our report with a look at Nokia. With the world’s biggest maker of mobiles sorting out its apps development strategy the potential for app sales is huge.

UPDATE: the same day this article was posted Microsoft and Nokia announced plans “to form a broad strategic partnership that would use their complementary
strengths and expertise to create a new global mobile ecosystem.” In short Windows Phone will be adopted by Nokia smartphones which spells the end of Nokia’s own OS development in this space. APC will cover more on these developments as they come to hand.

Platform #5: Developing for Nokia

In November Nokia announced that customers of its Ovi Store were downloading 3 million apps per day – a rate twice that of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry App World and a massive jump from the 2 million downloads per day it was seeing just two months earlier.

Nokia is mainly strong in the mid-tier and low-end phone space. With what the company claims is hundreds of millions of potential developers its app store is therefore an important conduit for developers – especially those that are prepared to match their development ideas to the requirements of the markets where Nokia is still extremely strong.

Nokia says over 400000 developers have signed up for its Forum Nokia developers’ area and 92 developers have seen over 1 million downloads of their apps each – sharing 70% of the revenues they generate. Importantly it appears that many of these developers have been able to get high visibility for their apps without a massive promotional effort.

“Without any promotion or marketing dollars in a few weeks we’ve hit 200000 downloads in Ovi Store faster than we did with [Apple’s] App Store” says Anton Gauffin CEO of Crazy Hamster creator BLStream. “We’re very positively surprised with what we’ve seen on Ovi and we’re on track to exceed our App Store performance even though we’ve been there longer.”

Whether because Ovi Store users are desperate for good games and apps or because it’s easier for good apps to get visibility without the masses of flotsam clogging up the App Store and Android Market is not totally clear. However it’s clear that the right app can do wonders in the Ovi Store – and that makes it worth considering for developers keen to make waves with their own apps.

It’s also worth noting that Australia’s Ovi Store business ranks 4th globally in terms of the number of apps purchased and 3rd globally in terms of the revenues they produce. Nokia isn’t saying whether this is because revenues drop off quickly or not – but these figures do suggest that if you’re going to be anywhere looking for opportunities in the Ovi Store Australia is a good place to start.

While Nokia’s download numbers suggest it’s finding its stride in the app market developers wanting to build for the platform need to be aware that a bet for Nokia right now is a bet for change. The company is transitioning away from its Symbian^3 operating system with its coming MeeGo – the result of a joint venture with Intel – soon to pick up the slack.

Developers eager to get into the Nokia market now are being versed in Nokia’s Qt development framework which is intended to smooth the transition to MeeGo and the netbook and tablet-style devices it will support.

Heavy use of Java may make the transition easier and many developers believe the Ovi Store is still on the right track even as Nokia works to bolster its struggling smartphone market share. “There’s a fair bit of life on Nokia yet” says David Kainer chief technology officer of Sydney-based Viva La Mobile whose Android and Symbian-based Dojo Squabble multiplayer game has been downloaded over 300000 times from the Ovi Store alone.
“I know a lot of people have given them a bum rap but in bringing out their new SDK and the MeeGo platform we see there’s quite a bit of potential in that. We get people from over 180 countries playing Dojo Squabble through Nokia and that’s partly due to the Ovi Store. There’s huge potential behind Nokia and we’re not going to ignore that.”

App Store:
Nokia Ovi Store
Supports: Nokia phones running Symbian OS
Web location: Here
Number of apps: Not disclosed “tens of thousands”
Number of developers: 400000+
Some popular apps: FingerPrint Scanner Marble Maze Classic airPainter Road to Hell 3D Sudoku Plus ThreadSMS nUnLock Fishing Off the Hook The Sims 3 World Adventures
Apps written in: Java
Developer tools: Here