A few years back Nokia came up with an idea for their smartphones. A few key bits of software, some ringtones and themes all stored online so people could add to their phones straight away. The idea grew a bit, spreading to Nokia feature phones as well as smartphones, and allowing third party developers the chance to get in on the act. However it didn’t really grow enough. A frustrating revenue system was used, not all applications were listed, and different models running the same Operating System had different applications available to them. Hell, sometimes the same model could have different applications available depending on the network. However, Nokia persevered, testing new ways to do things (including an advertising based model allowing free applications to people who checked out adverts) through the beta labs and Nokia Pilots, but nothing made it to the final stages.
A few years passed and Apple came along with their iPhone. I’m not a fan of that phone for many reasons, one of which is the amount of pre-existing technologies they claim to have invented for the phone. Touchscreen phones have been around for quite a while yet Apple claims to have invented them. Likewise it claims to have invented something they call the App Store – a collection of applications to increase the functionality of the phone. While some of their policies are ridiculous (I know of an e-book which was refused entry to the App Store twice then allowed onto the store on the third try with no editing done and some applications get refused for duplicating core functionality, while others get through for the same reason) they have in fact done a good job of setting up a revenue model that allows even the smallest developers to get their applications on the device. This “new invention” of Apple’s was released around the same time that Nokia were testing their advertising based Download system.
Now Google has entered the smartphone wars with Android, the first serious competitor to S60 in a long time. Android also uses an online application store for all the compatible software, again with the same sort of revenue model. Could it be that S60’s Download application, already considered a failure by most S60 owners, is the thing that will make people leave for other phone systems? Nokia hasn’t remained top of the mobile game this long by ignoring new ways of doing things. Like I said before, they’ve been working on Download all this time, trying to get the right mix of feature applications and revenue.
On Monday 16th of February during the Mobile World Conference, Nokia are rumoured to be unveiling a few new things. One is a phone so secret that all those outside Nokia who’ve seen it have had to sign gagging orders. Another is the Nokia Applications Store, also rumoured to be called Apps On Ovi (my bet is with that name) amongst other names. Rumour has it that only the most trusted beta labs users and Nokia Pilots have had a chance to test this feature out so far, indicating that it’s an upgrade of their current Download system rather than a whole new application. Will this tip the balance back in Nokia’s favour? After over a decade at the top I can’t see why not. Hopefully there’ll be more on this story on the 16th.