Nokia’s Executive VP of Services, Niklas Savander, spoke recently about many of the lessons his company has learned with its Ovi platform.
Ovi is Nokia’s “umbrella” name for a wide array of services, including e-mail, navigation, software purchasing, file storage, and more. This was launched several years ago, but hasn’t been the success hoped for.
From its comparisons to Apple’s iTunes and App Store, to the inconsistent user experience, to carrier involvement, Savander shed light on some of the reflecting and adjusting that the world’s largest (in marketshare) mobile device company has had to do.
Addressing Faults from Previous and Hasty Endeavors
With all the attention given to the iPhone App Store, users sometimes don’t realize that Nokia has had an on-device application store called Download! for many years. From there, users could purchase and download applications, games, wallpapers, and ringtones — either from Nokia or other partners.
But there were problems with the original version As Savander said:
…We were falling short on all three (discoverability, billing, and implementation). Take our download service. Every carrier had one, too, and the stores and the applications were not easy to discover. It was cumbersome to register. And the implementation was limited by the device software platforms. Believe me, I’ve had long discussions about this with my team. It’s disappointing that we needed a company external from the industry to shake us off our comfortable path. The App Store came along and we had to accelerate our own plans.
Feeling the pressure from Apple, Nokia might have jumped the gun:
There was a reason to go out with the Ovi story early, but in hindsight we probably went out too early. Ovi is the umbrella for all of our services. Two years ago we decided to combine our different service initiatives into one. The first year was all about cleaning up our portfolio and deciding which businesses we should be in and which we shouldn’t. At the same time we needed consistency in our road map. Then we had to put it all together and give it a consistent look and feel. To accelerate the road map we have bought about 20 companies.
Ovi and US Carriers
In another part of this CNET interview, Savander spoke about the inability to use Ovi on carrier-branded Nokia devices in the U.S. Although AT&T and Verizon both sell Nokia’s devices, the Ovi Store isn’t a part of what users get.
He discussed three market targets for Ovi: the independent distributed market, a more open mid-ground market, and the operator-controlled market.
Nokia’s VP admitted that they “have struggled in the market where the carrier driven dynamic is the strongest. ” Where they have been more successful has been in the open market, and this is where they’ve needed to adjust focus. The problem has been that the U.S. is an operator-controlled market.
Currently, Nokia is working with AT&T to make Ovi an available option by the end of the year for those who use Nokia’s handsets. However, there are no details about when this is happening, and to what devices.
Ovi Remains Major to Nokia
As a service area, Ovi is just beginning to become a driver for Nokia. Granted, a service that is pulling in a projected $2 billion in revenue for 2010 should sound major, but that’s not the bulk of what Nokia does right now. It a device company that is morphing into a services-enablement company. And for that, it means that initiatives like Ovi need to do better on that first and second impression to users.
Nokia understands this, and believes Ovi allows them enough flexibility to move faster — there’s a 3 month cycle between service/feature releases).
However, the company realizes that just services aren’t going to be enough. As Savander said: “The biggest contribution Ovi will make is making our devices better and more attractive. If you look to the future, devices will be sold in combination with services.” It will be their quality of execution in this area that will determine the ultimate success for Ovi, and Nokia in mobile.