Nokia: Ovi isn't just another app store

A future vision of personalised, location-specific apps

Nokia Ovi

Nokia is being very secretive about what it's doing on Ovi with Tim Kring, the creator of Heroes. But Tero Ojanperä, the Executive Vice President of Nokia Services, claims it will be an immersive experience - one that underlines "the Ovi Store is not just a shop; we are building an audience. It's all about engagement; can you engage the user in new and compelling ways?"

Beyond the apps you'll find on any of the mobile app stores, Ojanperä says the Ovi Store will offer 'storytelling'. "For Tim Kring, it's about how he sees content coming from the TV to the fourth screen, the mobile, which is a new way of engaging.

"Think about the phone: on the other side is the virtual world, on this side of the screen is the real world and these connect in a seamless way using location. The place where you are, the thing that connects you, where are you going, who are you meeting – these are attributes you can use to tailor content for you so the dumb store becomes a smart store based on different attributes."

App stores are a short term fix

In the long term he doesn't expect the proliferation of app stores to continue: "I think there will be only a couple of real meaningful distribution channels for apps and content. Why I say that is we have seen this requires scale... you need to be big enough not only to build it technically but to put some momentum behind [it]. That has played a critical role in the app store success.

"With the Ovi Store, we have the scale, we have the reach. But at the same time we can work with operators and they have this valuable asset, operator billing. They typically have a very good handle on who are their customers, what are they doing." Nokia is building a version of the Ovi Store with T-Mobile to take advantage of that extra information.

The fastest-growing category for Nokia apps is location-based services, but Ojanperä says that has to go a long way beyond just navigation applications and GPS, with the new Point-and-Find service almost a prototype for what could be possible. "It's very simple to just get the co-ordinates; turning those into meaningful data is harder. We acquired Navteq not just because they have great maps but because they know every object in the world and you need to be able to map co-ordinates into objects.

"Location is what you can derive out of that, what buildings, objects and services are around you. It might be a building like a hotel, it could be a street corner where you know there is some landmark or even indoors we might know this co-ordinate means you are in this room that has these capabilities. Location [information becomes] objects that can actually have a meaning, you can build more fundamental and compelling apps."

Indoor locations an issue

Getting locations indoors is the next big challenge: GPS doesn't work without a clear view of the sky. Nokia has a secret weapon here. "I think about mobile as a collection of sensors; GPS is a sensor, the camera is a sensor, so is Wi-Fi. You can probe the data; there's more and more of it available." And, points out Ojanperä, "having 1.2 billion probes is not a small asset."

While Navteq employs a few thousand people to drive around collecting location information and companies like Skyhook do the same for the location of wireless access points, Nokia is anonymously collecting information from phones equipped with both Wi-Fi and GPS. It hopes to build a huge, self-updating location database to use for indoor location fixes.

Put sensors, rich location information, services, application and content together and Ojanperä thinks it will take the mobile phone to the next level. "The phone is everywhere and with web technologies it becomes the new PC screen. It's not the status screen, it's a living screen that goes with you and understands the environment."

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