(By Preethi J and Nikhil Pahwa)

So the application ecosystem continues to grow, and following the success of the Apple iPhone Store, every handset manufacturer and telecom operator doesn’t want to risk losing out. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the GSM Association’s premier event, Nokia and Microsoft unveiled their application stores:
ovistore
Nokia’s Ovi Store

Nokia will launch its Ovi Store for apps, with content, applications, videos etc, with the commercial launch planned for May, in 9 countries. 

Personalization and Content Discovery

The Ovi Store appears to have a personalization angle to it – it doesn’t serve up just any application, but also offers targeted content based on your social connections and physical location. But with thousands of applications, games, videos, widgets, podcasts and content available, how will users choose what to view and buy? To address the issue of content discovery, Nokia is implementing a “social discovery” feature – the store will display apps that your friends have bought, and that helps proliferate the applications. Reminds you of Facebook apps, albeit with a location input, doesn’t it?

 

Nokia wants to leverage its Forum Nokia network for the Ovi Store, with around 3.5 million developers. Apparently, developers will get 70% of the proceeds from any sale, after the credit card fees and operator cut have been paid off. 

 

Devices

The Ovi Store will be available on S60 and Series 40 devices – which is substantial –  and the Nokia N97, launching in June, will be the first device to have Ovi Store embedded. That, of course, means that those with older handsets will have to download and install, which will limit the spread of the Ovi Store until users begin replacing devices. Nokia will have to figure out a way to make the Ovi Store more pervasive, and not just wait for the replacement cycle to complete.

Publishers

From today, content publishers will be able to register for the Ovi Store at http://publish.ovi.com. Developers and publishers will then be able to upload content starting next month, in time for the May launch. We just tried submitting MediaNama to Ovi, and got the following message:

“Due to high initial demand we are providing access on a staged basis. You are one step closer to publishing your content to Ovi. Look forward for our next email for the next step. Depending on the number of submissions, this shouldn’t take more than a few weeks tops.”

Content and applications from Facebook, MySpace, Fox Interactive, Electronic Arts, and Lonely Planet are on Ovi.

Microsoft’s Marketplace

Microsoft launched the Windows Marketplace as a feature of the Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system. The MarketPlace requires a Windows Live ID, and can be accessed both from the Internet and mobile.  Microsoft claims a fairly strong developer community with around 20,000 applications. There are no inputs, however, on when this service will be launched and how the revenue will be shared between Microsoft and developers.

The company also announced another new service called My Phone – a free auto-upgrade and synchronising service, to sync text messages, photos, video, contacts and more to the Web. The two services launched by Microsoft are on the three new Windows 6.5-based phones launched by HTC and LG at the MWC.