No. 1 handset manufacturer Nokia has made an Apple-like move into the direct-to-consumer services arena with a new portal, dubbed Ovi.
Ovi, which means door in Finnish, lets PC and handset users access an online music store, photo-sharing service, MySpace and FaceBook, the GPS-enabled Nokia Maps with city guides, and the N-Gage gaming service. Nokia also said it will welcome third-party developers to expand the portal over time. Ovis music and gaming portion will let users download, sync from a PC or listen/play live.
Its unclear what the reaction will be from the operator community, which relies on walled gardens and service exclusivity for differentiation and ARPU bolstering. With Nokia commanding the lions share of the worldwide handset market, the move does have the potential to be disruptive for carriers looking to protect their services revenue.
CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said the handset-maker will continue to grow the services side of its business, to make it easy for people to unlock the potential of the Internet.
The Nordic juggernaut also announced four new phones to support the launch: An 8GB upgrade to the N95, the N81 3G music phone with Wi-Fi and 8GB of memory and the 5310 and the 5610 4GB XpressMusic phones with sliding keyboard, camera and a 22-hour playback time for music. All have dedicated music or gaming keys.
Ovi and the devices will be available in Europe in time for Christmas, with further rollouts to follow.