Nokia launches app store to compete with Apple

Nokia (NOK) may be the world's largest handset company with about 37 percent of the global market, but it still has "Apple (AAPL) envy."

Apple's App store for its iPhone and other portable products has had over one billion downloads. These applications make the iPhone more valuable to many customers who use the broad spectrum of software, much of it free, to manage their businesses and daily lives.

The usefulness of applications also make it less likely that iPhone users will switch to competitive products. Perhaps best of all, the software is developed by outside engineers saving Apple from a major programming strain.

It is not surprising that many other handset companies want a community of developers devoted to their products and an array of apps for their customers to use. Nokia is trying to address this issue by launching an application store and developer program of its own.

According to Reuters,the new store will be called Ovi and "Nokia said it had started moving Ovi Store to production servers, preparing for the global commercial launch."

It is easy to count Nokia out because it is so far behind Apple in its launch. But that would be a mistake. While programmers may like the enthusiasm of Apple iPhone owners and their willingness to download applications, Nokia sells roughly 350 million handsets a year.

A successful download program for Nokia's smart phones, which are only a fraction of the total number of handsets the company sells, would give developers a toe-hold in a company that is likely to be the leading cell phone manufacturer for years to come.

Nokia may be late, but it is big.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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