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Pay-to-play apps hit Ovi

You're in their talons

Nokia World Free signing for Java apps, a new Java touch API, a Web SDK for smartphones and a new Ovi store - but best of all you get to squash pigs with eagles.

All this and more at Nokia World, which is this year combined with the Nokia Developers' Summit - reflecting just how important mobile applications are these days. Nokia is pushing apps into feature phones, through Java, but mostly the company wants to help developers find better ways of making money - which brings us to the pig-squashing eagle.

The eagle concerned is a new feature of the game Angry Birds, which involves launching birds at a pig-held stronghold to recover stolen eggs. The eagle is significant not because of its awesome destructive power, but mainly because the player has to pay to add a bird of prey to the anti-porcine arsenal.

That purchasing process is powered by Ovi, showing that developers don't need to stop making money from the customer just because they've paid for the application. Rovio, developer of Angry Birds, described it as "applications as a service", so soon you'll be able to buy your eagles by standing order.

But eagles are only for the desperate - Rovio came on stage to explain that it's about removing the frustration a player feels when a level seems impossible, as though the removal of the player's money was just a happy side effect. Take the idea further and you see an incentive for the developer to create impossible levels.

In-game billing is an important feature, and one that Ovi has struggled with thanks to its links into operator billing systems, another thing Nokia was keen to emphasise. But now in-app billing is in place and demonstrated, so Ovi users can now "Insert Coin To Continue" too.

The changes aren't all functional - the new handsets come with a new Ovi store which makes buying applications smoother, and Nokia is now signing both Java and Symbian apps for nothing in an ongoing attempt to stock the shelves. The new Touch & Type API for Java-based development will also blur the distinction between smartphones and featurephones, if it weren't blurred enough already.

Nokia's strategy for developers now has three clear angles - Java for feature phones, Qt for smartphones (including MeeGo devices, which are promised by year end) and a new Web SDK in the next day or two. Those are backed with Ovi which supports operator billing, in-app transactions and subscriptions.

It might not be perfect, but it is an understandable strategy, and that's what developers really wanted to hear. ®

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