Nokia risks antagonising operators over ‘customer ownership’ with the launch of its long-awaited Ovi store, after only securing one network partner.
Nokia’s online portal is launching with an estimated 20,000 services and applications available.
Ovi store is intended as a one-stop shop for software and services, further monetising Nokia’s huge base of devices.
The portal could easily rile networks as it will compete in applications and value-added services, such as music and video.
T-Mobile has been the first to partner with the manufacturer, integrating its widget application, ‘Web’n’Walk’, with Ovi.
The agreement may be lucrative for challenger brand T-Mobile, but Vodafone and O2 are expected to be the more staunch competitors.
Vodafone and Nokia have a memorandum-style agreement stating that Vodafone will not co-operate on Nokia services that clash with its own.
CSS Insight analyst Ben Wood said: ‘Challenger operators may not be able to afford to introduce app stores on that scale – so this could be a coup
Analysts said the T-Mobile partnership indicates the kind of deals that Nokia will have to broker to gain access to the end-user, and ultimately make Ovi a success. Wood says: ‘Nokia will have to take a pragmatic approach with operators.’
Networks are unlikely to bar Ovi, but they are expected to limit access and force Nokia into taking a ‘localised’ approach with each operator in each country.
Ovum’s principle analyst of consumer practice, Eden Zoller, said: ‘Operator control can be overplayed – networks don’t have much choice anymore – they will have to enable access, but they might not make it as easy as they could.’
Operators have started showing co-operation. Nokia announced an exclusive partnership with Orange for the 5800 Comes With Music device last week.
The move is a breakthrough for Nokia in terms of services, as it has finally won operator support for Comes With Music. Orange, like other operators, had previously been more obdurate towards the service.
Meanwhile, Vodafone is thought to be working on putting ‘Ovi share’, Nokia’s social networking service, on phones in the second half of 2009.
N97 will be ‘key’
Nokia’s next Nseries flagship phone, the N97, will be a critical test for Ovi – as it will be the first handset with a built-in widget providing access to the Nokia portal. The device will also be integral in bolstering the manufacturer’s position in an increasingly crowded smartphone market, against players such as RIM, Apple and HTC.
Wood said: ‘The N97 will be the big bang – it’s going to be the flagship Ovi device, and you can bet Nokia will be lighting it up with marketing.’
Meanwhile, others remain sceptical over the device, believing that the N97 is more about ‘catching up’ with the likes of Apple and its pioneering applications store for the 3G iPhone.