This is Nokia's Answer to the App Store?

Published on May 26, 2009
by John Paczkowski

ovistoreThe Ovi Store, Nokia’s much anticipated response to the wildly popular Apple App Store, debuted this morning–ignominiously by most accounts.

Early criticisms point out the store’s paltry selection, slow performance and sign-in errors, disappearing apps and a less-than-intuitive UI. Nokia blamed the store’s unresponsiveness on unusually high traffic and did its best to address the problem, but even those efforts by its own admission resulted in only “intermittent performance improvements.”

Not the sort of grand opening you hope for when your smartphone market share has been tumbling, largely thanks to the growth of the iPhone and BlackBerry and their respective app stores. Obviously, thin selection and unreliable performance are poor foundations for an online bazaar, especially one so late and so long in coming. Certainly, it makes for a poor comparison to Apple’s App Store, which has already shown up an industry of which it wasn’t even a member a few years ago. As Bengt Nordstrom, chief executive of telecom consultant Northstream, said when Ovi was first announced, “As much as iPhone and App Store is a success for Apple, it’s a humiliating defeat for the rest of the mobile industry. Twenty years of efforts from operators and vendors to create mobile applications that customers like is overtaken in a heartbeat by someone that’s never done it before.”

And now this stumbling launch for Nokia (NOK). Growing pains? I suppose. The Ovi store is being made available to an estimated 50 million Nokia devices globally and it’s enhanced with “social location dynamics” to show you relevant applications and those that your friends have bought, so perhaps early missteps like these are to be expected. Don’t seem to recall Apple (AAPL) or RIM (RIMM) suffering from them, though.

Forrester analyst Thomas Husson says that the success of the Ovi Store depends on, among other things, “the quality of the execution…how easily can the content be accessed, how large is the catalogue of content, how simple is the new merchandizing approach?” Sadly for Nokia, the answers to these questions–at least initially–are not the best.

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