There are advantages to not being first. When it comes to mobile application marketplaces, Apple's App Store is an undisputed success, but it has several shortcomings. eWEEK Labs measures the new Nokia Ovi Store and RIM BlackBerry App World against the stalwart App Store. Both improve on the App Store's certification process, but the Nokia Ovi Store stands out for its ability to point to relevant content.
One of the advantages of not being first to market with a particular
kind of solution is that you can sit back and evaluate where your
bleeding-edge competitors have fallen short, and then create
distinctive solutions that not only resolve the first-movers'
shortcomings but capitalize upon them.
With this in mind, at this month's CTIA show in Las Vegas I
separately met with executives from Research in Motion and Nokia--two
companies in just such a position. Both were on hand to promote their
new mobile application marketplaces.
Nokia's Ovi Store and RIM's BlackBerry App World were designed to
help spur user adoption of third-party applications and, in turn, more
development. These stores are in large part a response to Apple's App
Store, as well as to the Android Marketplace.
Although a giant success, Apple's App Store is not without problems,
leaving plenty of opportunity for others to create distinction. The App
Store has been fairly criticized for its secretive certification
program: It has been consistently encumbered by slow turnaround of new
or updated applications, limited notifications of certification status,
and sometimes haphazard and other times monopolistic rejections of
Both RIM and Nokia are certainly sensitive to issues surrounding the application approval process.
Applications submitted for BlackBerry App World undergo reviews for
content suitability and technical testing, but RIM representatives said
that they are committed to turning submissions around in two weeks.
Meanwhile, Nokia makes it clear that it submitted applications must be
either Java Verified or Symbian-signed, must conform to Nokia's content
policy and must pass through Nokia's own testing process on the devices
the app claims to support.
Nokia has taken the interesting step of limiting who can develop for
the Ovi Store for the time being. Specifically, developers must
represent a corporate entity and provide a Tax ID number, so individual
developers will be shut out from the Ovi store for the time being.
Nokia representatives claim this is done solely to address the issue of
developer payment in an international marketplace, and that as Nokia
improves its backend business tools and processes, it will look at
opening things up further.
As a user, one of my primary complaints about Apple's App Store has
been one of discoverability. There are thousands of applications in the
App Store, and honing in on what could be interesting to me has been an
ongoing struggle. Apple's primary discovery tools--a list of Featured
applications and a pair of Top 25 (expandable to Top 50) download lists
(for-free and paid) provide limited guidance.
Search tools and categorical browsing are the other alternatives,
and both require at least some knowledge of what you are looking
for--or a lot of patience.
In iTunes, Apple used to produce what seemed to be an encompassing
list of new releases in date order, which I would peruse a couple times
a week to get a sense of what was newly available. Yet that list was
scrapped in favor of a "What's New?" section of the Featured list,
which highlights certain applications but does not dive deep into the
new stock. With that chronological list gone, I found myself trying
fewer applications and losing interest in wading through the App Store.
There's a great opportunity for these new application marketplaces
to solve this shortcoming, but at first glance it appears only one
vendor is even trying.
Early reviews of BlackBerry App World indicate that RIM's store is
not ambitious in its efforts to guide users to cool or useful
applications. The on-device App World experience is dominated by a
one-at-a-time display of a few featured applications. Otherwise, as
with the Apple App Store, users can browse categories, search for an
application or view a list of top downloads.
Nokia, on the other hand, has developed what it calls the Relevancy
Engine, which will feed a stream of content deemed appropriate to Ovi
Store users. The Relevancy Engine will recommend applications or
other content based on the type of device the user has or what the
user's contacts have installed on their own Nokia devices.
Later this summer, Nokia also plans to add a place dimension,
collecting users' location from the cell network or GPS receiver to
feed applications or content relevant to where the user is located.
With these tools in place, Nokia then hopes to build an auction
system for placement within the Ovi Store, allowing application
developers to pay for placement based on the type of device and network
a user could have.
While I worry a bit about such pay-for-play schemes devolving into
blanket recommendations that really have little to do with me, if the
sponsored placement stays grounded in my details--what I carry and
where I am--I'm at least willing to give it a try.
eWEEK Labs Senior Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.