Are Nokia's Ovi Services Gaining Momentum?

Because of poor execution in 2009, the industry consensus — particularly in the US, where Nokia has a small footprint — was that Nokia was not in a position to catch up with the Apple App Store or Android Market. Reports of the Ovi Store’s death were greatly exaggerated: Nokia simply cannot afford to fail. On the contrary, it is now catching up, particularly in emerging countries, where Nokia clearly differentiates thanks to its unique local presence and relationships with operators (mobile billing is currently supported in around 30 countries).

Nokia just issued a press release this morning insisting that Ovi Store downloads are now reaching 2.3 million per day for a total installed base of 140 million active users. Bear in mind that a user is considered active on a six-month period and that this figure includes multiple Ovi experiences, including the 17 million Ovi mail and chat users as well as users of Ovi Maps, Ovi music, and Ovi life tools.

That's an increase versus last May (1.7 million) and versus the data that was announced at Nokia World two weeks ago (2 million). More interestingly, 200,000 people are signing up daily to Ovi. That's a significant trend.

I'll stick to my initial thoughts about Nokia's transformation journey: the challenge is still to offer a fully integrated Ovi brand experience.

It took a couple of years to move Nokia services under the Ovi umbrella. The new challenge is to make sure that the Ovi experience is seamless enough to nurture the overall Nokia brand. The key attributes of the Ovi (by Nokia) brand experience will depend on how tightly and seamlessly Nokia interconnects devices and services. Nokia still needs to focus on the user experience, to offer deeper integration with Nokia devices, to unify the look and feel of Ovi services, and to offer a single sign-on.

To succeed in the long run, I think that players wanting to succeed in the application store market need to address the key factors that will make them a success:

  • Offering reach and being explicit about the addressable audience. Expect the concept of app stores to expand to other connected devices and platforms. In this regard, Nokia offers a large reach via Symbian devices. The question is still open for connected devices and will depend on the success of MeeGo moving forward.
  • Creating a viable business model for third parties and developers. Expect mobile affiliation and cost-per-download models to become more frequent. Nokia just announced that 70 developers and publishers are now surpassing the million-download mark for their content in the Ovi Store. The question is still how many of them are monetizing these downloads.
  • Providing third parties with marketing and merchandizing tools. Expect the market to structure the support for third parties beyond just the small independent developers that jumped on the Apple bandwagon. Nokia acquired Motally and should be able to package more analytics in its offering.
  • Offering a wide choice of payment and pricing options. Expect in-application billing, operator billing, and subscription models to emerge. Nokia is probably leading the pack here in terms of operator billing — taking into account there is a life outside credit cards and PayPal.
  • Facilitating the discovery of a large and locally relevant content catalog. Expect mobile search’s relevance to increase and the delivery of more contextualized results.
  • Looking at sources of inspiration other than Apple to provide a unique user experience. Expect successful players to look at Amazon.com and Facebook, which provide open platforms with unique social, personalization, and recommendation features, rather than to copy and paste Apple’s model.