BARCELONA (Reuters) - The world's top cell phone maker Nokia unveiled on Monday its new online software and media store, hoping to follow the runaway success of Apple's App Store.
The focus of the cell phone market has been shifting to software development since Google and Apple entered the mobile market in the past two years.
Nokia unveiled the store at a developer conference on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona.
Also at the fair, telecom operator Orange said it will launch a similar online store from May across Europe. Nokia said it would open the online 'Ovi' store in nine countries in May. It said 70 percent of revenues from the store would go to software developers, and its first model to ship with access to the store would be its new flagship phone N97.
Nokia said partners for the store included, among others, social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
Ovi Store is a much needed response to success of App Store from Apple, said Ben Wood, research director at CCS Insight.
Successful deployment is essential to maintaining the competitiveness of Symbian and the key partner is undoubtedly Facebook, given the current momentum around social networking on mobile phones, Wood said.
Research firm Strategy Analytics forecasts the value of the mobile content market -- including downloadable games, ringtones, wallpapers, video, mobile TV, text alerts and mobile web browsing -- to grow 18 percent to $67 billion this year.
Apple's App Store has proved to be popular with iPhone users, and helped spawn an entire industry of entrepreneurs who design the programs which can then be downloaded by consumers.
Apple said last month a total of 15,000 applications are available and downloads have hit 500 million in six months.
Microsoft Corp is also planning an online bazaar for applications running on its Windows Mobile operating system, according to the Wall Street Journal. Blackberry-maker Research in Motion said last year it plans to launch its app store early this year.
SMARTPHONES TO BUCK THE TREND?
Nokia shares were 0.9 percent lower at 9.46 euros on a softer Dow Jones Stoxx European Technology index, recovering from a brief knock after Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo told a news conference he saw a deep, long and global economic downturn ahead.
Cellphone makers introduced new advanced cell phone models on Monday, hoping to benefit from expected continued growth in demand for smartphones.
While the overall cell phone market is expected to shrink around 10 percent in 2009 as consumers rein in spending, analysts and the industry still expect the smartphone market to grow some 10-20 percent in 2009.
Sony Ericsson unveiled an 8 megapixel camera phone and said it would bring to the market in the second half of the year a 12 megapixel camera phone model codenamed Idou.
There is always demand for something new, better, something attractive, and that's what we are looking for, Hideki Komiyama, president of Sony Ericsson, told Reuters in an interview.
At its news conference Nokia also launched two smartphone models, the E75 and E55, along with two GPS navigation phones.
(Additional reporting by Kate Holton, Niclas Mika, Georgina Prodhan and Brett Young; Editing by Hans Peters)