Developers shun Nokia in rush for seasonal app store trade

I won’t be breaking any news by regaling you with tales of the success of Apple’s App Store. This is due in no small part to Apple opening its software developer kit (SDK) and offering application developers high levels of support and unparalleled access to a mass market. I heard one developer compare the opening of Apple’s SDK to the invention of the printing press, given that users can address the mass market via the App Store. High praise indeed.

However, some industry insiders are often quick to point out that iPhone users amount to a small portion of all mobile phone users and that feature phone users are a massively underserved market. Surely that would make Nokia’s Applications on Ovi outlet the platform of choice for most application developers given Nokia’s huge market share – 45% of the smartphone market alone if you believe the folks from Espoo. But developing for Nokia’s favoured Symbian platform is proving too much of a headache according to many developers and engineers at Nokia know this, surprisingly some are even talking openly about the matter. “Developing for Nokia sucks!” reads one presentation penned by a Nokia employee that’s circulating on the Internet.

However, the Finnish company is looking to resolve its development platform issues by lowering the entry barrier points for developers. Nokia’s latest solution for developer support stems from its acquisition of Norwegian firm Troltech and its cross platform application framework Qt – pronounced “cute.” The Qt platform offers improved levels of support for developers in terms of code-writing, time to market and cost savings. Although for some developers, all of this might be a case of too little, too late.

Nokia is often keen to highlight how it has the volumes, distribution network and customers to make developers extremely successful. But it seems that volume is not all that counts in the applications market, many developers want to bring products to market quickly in order to cash-in on seasonal purchases such as a Christmas-themed or Olympic-themed applications.

While Nokia is keen to hear feedback from developers, many of them are more concerned about making money now and will only start to pay attention when all of the cracks have been glossed over. “We can’t wait for Qt, the Christmas market is too important for us,” one developer told me at a recent briefing and many voices at a recent developer conference hosted in London echoed this sentiment.

Just how much of a cash-cow such applications will be remains to be seen but it makes sense for developers to latch on to any “sales hook” they can in such a competitive market place. But in the case of Apps on Ovi and Qt, it appears as if there is a bit of a “chicken and egg” conundrum.

Most developers I’ve spoken with recently are opting to use the Android platform as an alternative to the densely populated App Store where it can be difficult for application developers to distinguish their offerings from similar products but still there was little mention of Apps on Ovi. The problem of intense competition on the App Store makes the apparent unattractiveness of Nokia all the more bewildering.

Perhaps the Finn’s difficulties in providing technical support to the wider developer community lies in the fact that Nokia has a wide variety of business interests and it’s difficult to be all things to all men. “Java is a big problem for us,” said one Nokia engineer at a recent developer conference when discussing how the company has to divide its resources when it comes to supporting application developers. The vast majority of Nokia’s handsets in the global market are low end Java devices owned predominantly by users in emerging markets and regardless of how low-fi such devices are Nokia cannot afford sack technical support for java application developers. This leaves Nokia with a difficult choice of sacrificing market share for modernity, either way the road ahead for them will be tough but surely the rewards will be bountiful when it gets the balance right.

One comment

  1. Avatar Henrik von Schoultz 19/10/2009 @ 4:27 pm

    But Nokia now goes for Maemo. Maemo is not so hard to program as it seems.
    What is your take on Maemo?
    If Nokia has a market share of 45 % on the smart phone market its a no brainer. Go for it! If you can be alone because developers think its hard thats even better!

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