BARCELONA, Spain-- As location-based services continue to gain momentum, most notably with Google's recent announcement of Latitude, it should come as little surprise that Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer, hopes to grab a large part of the personalized application market.
Nokia Executive Vice President Tero Ojanper??? used a keynote address to do just that, with the announcement of Ovi, an application store that "learns" users' preferences and uses location and social networking to personalize the experience. Nokia says Ovi will be accessible to about 50 million people immediately upon its launch in May.
"This is not just a place to find content or applications-it knows you," Ojanper??? announced to a Mobile World Congress audience in Barcelona. "It shows you what your friends have bought, and changes its inventory based on where you are."
Along with the service, which will be available for download to S40 and S60 Nokia devices in May (the first preloaded handset will be the N97 in June), Ojanper??? announced publish.ovi.com, where content owners can upload and monetize their content.
"We are already the largest base of content-enabled devices in the world, and now providers have easy access to that market," he said. He invited all content developers to join the list of partners Nokia already has lined up, including social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Friendster; Fox Mobile Group; game publisher Electronic Arts; and Lonely Planet, a provider of travel guides.
Ojanper??? said Nokia focused on five key services when developing Ovi: music, messaging, games, social location and general media. Not only do mobile services need to be faster, easier and more intuitive, he said, but they also must anticipate user needs by blending content and services together based on the context for a user's situation. "This is the next wave of mobile services-needs based on location and social network," he said. "Forty-nine percent of all people online are involved in a social network."
Of those belonging to a social network, the top activities are sharing their location, reading or updating profiles, and posting comments, Ojanper??? said. "Customers want content relevant to their interests, locations and people in their lives," he said. "The keyword to summarize all this is -relevance.' The media that you consume is not just about what you are buying, but when, where and also who bought what."
Over time, Ovi will learn user preferences and change the applications it offers them based on where they are and what their tastes are. Ojanper??? said no two users' screens should look the same. "This is the new benchmark," he said. "This is the store for you."
He also noted the importance of working together with the industry to develop this content, from the largest content providers down to the smallest independents. Ojanper??? outlined a revenue-sharing program that sees 70 percent going to the developer. "We are already the largest base of content-enabled devices in the world, and now providers have easy access to that market," he said. "Help us build the world's largest media network."
Following the speech, Ojanper??? took questions from the audience. One attendee asked how Nokia would manage quality control, if at all. Ojanper??? responded by saying service would be moderated by Nokia. "The publishers need to register into the service," he explained. "There will be a quality assurance process."
He reiterated that the primary function of the Ovi Store is providing an easy way for publishers to publish their content, and make the consumer experience of finding the content as easy as possible. A global rollout of the service is expected in the fall. "It is about people all over the world loving mobile content and wanting to download something," he said. "It's simple, and it's for me, and that's the most important thing."