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Nokia app store to launch in May

Ovi Store adds social networking tool

Nokia is following in the footsteps of Apple and Google and opening an app store that will offer downloads for users of handsets running the Symbian S40 and S60 platforms.

Nokia plans to open the store in May in nine countries, with continued rollouts to other regions after that. Users will be able to pay either via credit card or potentially via their monthly bill, depending on their mobile operator and the application developer.

Prior to launching the store, Nokia will open Publish to Ovi, a portal where content providers can publish their applications to the store, on March 2.

Nokia already has four million registered users in its Forum Nokia developer programme. But there hasn't really been a standard way for them to offer their applications, said Linardos.

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In addition to those developers, content creators and web companies are invited to offer applications and content to users. Facebook and MySpace say they will offer applications for Nokia phones.

The developers can choose if they want users to pay through their operator or directly by credit card, and choose regions of the world where they want their application to be distributed.

Applications will pass through a quality assurance process that ensures they don't have viruses or contain illegal content, but otherwise Nokia won't prohibit applications.

Developers will receive 70 percent of the revenue from sales and the rest goes to Nokia.

The Ovi Store is essentially a combination of three existing Nokia services: Mosh, Download and WidSets. Once the store launches, Nokia will begin offering existing phone owners ways to download it, including over the air.

Nokia has increasingly been branching out beyond phone hardware, and at times its efforts appear to conflict with its operator partners, who sometimes offer similar services. Nokia has been talking to operators about the new Ovi Store and working with some of them to enable billing, Linardos said. Ultimately, the application store is a way for operators to collect more revenue from users, he noted.

Nokia is also learning some difficult lessons about the challenges of offering services. Last week, it announced in a blog that after a cooling system breakdown in one of its data centers, the company lost data including contacts and profile photos that users store online as part of the beta Ovi Contacts offering.

See also: Nokia to slash mobile phone production

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