Mobilebeat2009: Nokia to shed light on OVI mess and more

updatedThe world’s largest phone maker, Nokia, will be announcing its earnings Thursday, a few hours before our mobile industry conference MobileBeat2009 kicks off.

On hand at the conference will be Nokia executive Tero Ojanpera, who I’ll be speaking with in a fireside chat. Ojanpera said the earnings release before the conference opening will give him more room to talk openly about the company’s recent progress.

He wouldn’t comment until Thursday about what the earnings will reveal, but said he hopes to clarify some misunderstandings related to the performance of Nokia’s smartphone business, as well as talk about how the OVI store is coming along

OVI is Nokia’s online store where you can download applications for your Nokia phone. It is supposed to be an answer to popular mobile app stores offered by Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android phones and an increasing number of other players, including Vodafone and other carrier stores.

tero-ojanperaHowever, judging from the comments of several developers, the OVI store has been a disaster. Steve Boom, chief executive of Mig33, a social communication application popular on Symbian phones such as the ones Nokia sells, told me recently that his company has been frustrated because it has been unable to get Migg33 listed at the OVI store. After the store launched in May, Mig33’s logo was listed briefly at the store, but when you clicked to download, you got an error sign. Since then, Mig33’s team has continued call on Nokia’s business development representatives to point them to the error. At first, Nokia’s representatives admitted there were problems, and were responding to calls. However, the problem is still not fixed, despite months of time, and now Nokia’s representatives are simply not returning calls. There’s apparently something really, really wrong.

Ojanpera talked yesterday about the problem, he acknowledged only that the company had some server issues initially “in the early hours,” but that subsequently the company has done better and that downloads are now “surging.” He said the company is now busy taking next steps to resolve remaining issues, but that the company is now getting more positive feedback from developers — from things like billing and other services that have until now been more targeted to markets outside of the United States. At the bottom of the post are some early statistics the company is revealing about the OVI store performance.

Ojanpera also said there’s a perception that the company’s marketshare in smartphones is dropping. While market share did drop to about 38 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, from about 50 percent before, it stabilized in the first quarter, and even went up slightly. He would not comment on the second quarter performance, which will be revealed Thursday. However, he said that Nokia’s overall market share in the non-smartphone market is also about 38 percent. So the 38 percent level for smartphones appears more normal, in this light, especially considering the relative lack of competition in the smartphone marke earlier on, he said. With the arrival of a series of competitors such as the iPhone, Android phones and others, you’d expect market share to go down. The only question is, how much.

I’m sure we’ll have an in-depth conversation during the fireside chat, which opens at 8:45am on Thursday, and which will also include Palm’s executive Michael Abott, and Google’s Vic Gundotra. We’ve already written about Nokia’s embrace of QT, a platform that allows mobile developers to write in a web run-time environment. This aligns with efforts by both Google and Palm to push their own platforms that serve developers with ways to write predominantly for the Web standards instead of for more arcane proprietary operating systems and frameworks — such as Apple’s.

[By the way MobileBeat2009, our conference for mobile executives, is almost sold out. The last few tickets can be obtained here.]

Stats on OVI:

  • About 3500 content items available for the popular Nokia devices (Update: Nokia got in touch and told me this number applies only for N97, and that consumers with older device models will see much more).
  • Users from 180 countries have an active Ovi Store account
  • Top 5 downloading countries in alpha order: India, Italy, Spain, UK & US
  • Developers from 60 countries have uploaded their content to Ovi Store
  • Ovi Store is accessible from over 75 Nokia devices in 5 languages
  • Ovi Store has mobile billing from 27 operators from around the world

Content recently added:

  • Tower Bloxx Deluxe – a highly popular casual game on Facebook is now available
  • Ice Age 3 is out this month, July, and Sid is running wild across games, wallpapers and a video.
  • Lonely Planet has 23 items including city guides, videos and phrase books to make travel easier.
  • WorldMate 2009 is in the spotlight – the #1 travel app for S60 includes a currency converter, weather report & flight alerts.

Cool news apps include:

  • BandFan by Earthcomber (5800/N97) a great new touch based music app that lets you quickly & easily find where your favorite band is playing
  • kSnap & Translate – Snap a picture of any printed text & translate it in real time. Offered in Finnish, Portuguese, Swedish, Polish, French, Danish, Dutch, Italian, Norwegian, German & Spanish.
  • Pixelpipe – Connect Ovi Share to distribute photos, vid, etc to social networks, & blog services. Works with over 85 services across the Social Web.
  • EA Games added: Monopoly World, Tomb Raider Underworld, Sims 3 and more
  • New personalization content from: Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Coldplay, Pearl Jam and others
  • Nokia Messaging is available & supports thousands of leading global/local email providers
  • Guitar Hero World Tour is ready to rock your phone!

Popular Downloads:

  • “Star Trek Ringtone” is the number one downloaded item cumulative since launch
  • In June, the # 1 app in revenue was “Gravity”, developed by one person in Germany
  • In June, “Photo Twister” is #1 app in volume

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