It was Tuesday, so it had to be Stockholm.
Which is, let us be honest, an agreeable place to spent a Tuesday or indeed any other day of the week, particularly when the spring sun is warming your back, clouds have vacated the sky and your conference venue backs onto the Baltic.
Anyway, I was there as a guest of Dataföreningen Kompetens
and Computer Sweden to talk about mobile applications: specifically, about how the mobile ecosystem was transitioning in the wake of the success of Apple’s App Store into a model which is, well, predicated upon selling content via app stores.
One of my assertions which raised a few eyebrows was that, the growing penetration of Android handsets notwithstanding, the Ovi Store will – in terms of download volumes – be the primary challenger to the App Store for the forseeable future.
No, really. You there at the back of the class, stop sniggering. It’s true I tell you.
And here’s why.
Nokia, as any analyst fule kno, has the largest share of handsets in the world. And while this share may have dipped slightly, the vendor still accounts for more than a third of global handset shipments. And in many emerging and developing markets, Nokia truly is The Big Daddy – more than 70% of the installed base in Egypt, well over 50% in India, South Africa and Nigeria; half the market in the Philippines and Indonesia; it is also the leading vendor in China, which accounts for the odd subscriber or two. In such countries, high-end smartphones such as iPhones, Blackberries and the growing panoply of Android devices have a negligible market share.
Point number two: while smartphone market share in the markets outlined above is low, that is not to say that their impact has been limited to the smartphone-owning public. Consumer awareness about apps is rising fast; many of those that do not have apps would like to have them, or at least sample one or two. Naturally, local network operators are attempting to tap into the zeitgeist by launching their own storefronts (China Mobile and Bharti Airtel are notable examples here), but none has the global scale and developer relationships that Nokia has.
Point number three: fixed Internet penetration (and games console ownership) in these markets is also extremely low. Thus, given a half decent UI (allied of course to good content portfolios), mobile browsing and content adoption has the potential to rise sharply in these countries: in short, those that wish to access the Internet, play online games or use applications will in most cases do so via the mobile device.
Point number four: smartphone features are, individually and severally, working their way into the featurephone market. Mid-range handsets have had cameras for several years: they are now acquiring GPS and touchscreens.
When all these points are taken into consideration, it suggests that Nokia, almost despite itself, is in a strong position to capitalise upon an app-centric world. Many of us have had issues with Ovi; with registering; with logging in; with finding something that we actually want to download. But Nokia is gradually improving the situation: and the downloads are rising fast.