To the surprise of no-one at all, Nokia has launched their application store on Ovi, announcing a 70/30 split with content owners. But Ovi won't be limited to applications, and supposedly, it will know what's of interest to you before you do.
Ovi has been listing applications, particularly games, for the last few months, Nokia also distributes user-generated content through MOSH and widgets through WidsSets. But right now everything is free or demonstrative: the Ovi store will allow users to download content of all kinds and, more importantly, to pay for it too.
Just about everyone has an application store these days. Samsung launched one last week, and Orange added widgets to its expanding store this morning. So developers have a plethora of options when it comes to getting their products into market - assuming those products aren't for the iPhone or Palm's forthcoming Pre, both of which have (and will have, respectively) monopolistic distribution mechanisms.
But Nokia wants Ovi to sell everything. It will be broader even than iTunes with content including films and games but also user-generated content, blurring the line between consumer and producer in the best Web 2.0 fashion. Not only that, but Nokia is hoping network operators will sign up to do the billing for them too.
There are two problems facing stores at the moment: setting up the billing relationship with customers and ensuring that customers don't have to wade through a deluge of crap to get to the application they want. Nokia reckons the first of these can be addressed by adding charges to the phone bill - a good trick if they can pull it off - while location sensing and social networking will allow Ovi to recommend suitable content to the users.
Network operators' billing systems are notoriously difficult to integrate, though things are improving. Ovi will take credit cards too, but integrated billing will work better where, and if, Nokia can strong-arm operators to play ball. Recommending content based on location and what friends are buying is more contentious and will be optional. But if it works, then it could drive punters to the Nokia social networking services as well as the Ovi store.
It's all very Web 2.0, but given Nokia's lowly status as a provider of social networking, it's also pretty optimistic. Using location to recommend content sounds good, but beyond a city-guide it's hard to imagine much location-specific content - unless getting of the plane in Scotland wakes an innate desire to hear Runrig or visiting Cardiff makes one long for a bit of Jones. Without an effective way of guiding users to the content they want, Ovi could easily end up as a YouTube alternative, only one where viewers can pay for content and there aren't any viewers. ®