Nokia has confirmed that the price drop for Ovi developers is permanent, losing the "beta" label previously applied and making Ovi the second cheapest app store to get on.
The price cut was introduced last month along with the new Qt SDK, but the new pricing came with a "beta" tag which has now (unsurprisingly) been removed. That puts the sign-up cost permanently down to €50, with application signing for all but the most dangerous apps thrown in free.
All About Symbian reckons that this places Ovi as the second cheapest application store, still charging twice what Google asks for membership of the the Android Marketplace: $25 and free signing. iOS and Windows Mobile will take a hundred dollars off you, and getting into the BlackBerry store costs twice that.
The fact that a few hundred dollars presents a significant barrier to entry is indicative of the kind of developer now bringing products to the market. One doesn't hear filmmakers complaining that the £730 charge for having a film certified prevents them making movies, but many of the utility (and novelty) applications used on mobile phones these days are the work of hobbyists who don't expect to make more than a few quid from their creations.
Ars Technica recently had a look at how mobile developers make money, and the vast majority simply don't. Mobile applications have a very steep curve, and a very short tail: Ars reckons the top ten per cent applications in iTunes get about 75,000 downloads, the next ten per cent only 9,000 and the vast majority fewer than 1,000. Enough to justify a hobby, but not sustain a business (unless you're publishing a thousand identikit apps).
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it explains why Nokia feels it necessary to cut Ovi's pricing, and why BlackBerry will probably follow suit.
The problem is that removing the per-application-signing fee turns the Ovi signing process into a loss leader for Nokia, which will be depending on application sales to make back the money - a model that some are already saying is unsustainable. ®