At about 9am this morning, the virtual equivalent of the panic button was echoing throughout the Nokia Ovi Store network operations centre.
After a successful soft launch in Australia over the weekend, the press releases went out. The wires began to buzz. Twitter feeds began to chirp. Ovi store was live! Never mind that it’s a public soft launch. The legions of Nokia fans (and there are legions of them) couldn’t wait. They began to switch on and check out store.ovi.com.
Just as I did.
The first thing I saw this morning was a blank screen. 10 minutes later when I refreshed, I was presented with another blank screen and an error message.
Oh dear. Surely they planned for this?
Very smart people dressed in very serious suits spent a long time planning the launch, getting the right equipment and infrastructure in place ready to scale as required. But even they didn’t completely predict the scale of interest.
I’ve always held that it would only be after Ovi went live that the rest of the world would catch site of the 800lb Gorilla that is Ovi Store. Right now, roughly 50 million handsets are capable of running the Ovi Store. All things being equal and with a fair wind, upwards of 400 million users COULKD have Ovi installed on their handset in around 18 months. This is a company who is, on a bad day, knocking out a million handsets a day — with most soon to come with Ovi as a standard feature.
Suddenly it’s real.
Suddenly Silicon Valley and the rest of the planet is now faced with the reality that the Finnish Giant is set to become a major global player in mobile content and applications.
All of a sudden Apple although initially leading with numbers, has some more competition, particularly from a global viewpoint.
If you’ve any doubt about the scale of the interest in Ovi, let me take you back to 9am this morning at the Nokia Ovi network operations centre.
Sit back and think about the reality here.
Nokia tracked the rollout of users lighting up on an electronic world map. By 9am, most of Europe was covered in big green dots. Parts of Asia were already lighting up by 10am and by 11am North America, having already got the Twitter messages, woke up. The result being that the majority of the United States is covered in green.
Papua New Guinea is green.
Switzerland is green.
Ghana is green.
You can’t make out Lichtenstein because of the flipping great green dot on top of it — and it’s surrounded by the greenery of Europe.
Same with Fiji — it’s a massive green dot, so big, you can’t actually see the island.
Such is the interest for Ovi Store.
And no wonder the service crept to a halt in the early hours. Talking with the tech team there, they explained that capacity went flying past their 70% normality threshold almost the moment the launch announcement hit the wires. They rushed to spin up their backup infrastructure so that within 3 hours, full service was restored. I just checked in with them a few minutes ago and they’re now serving 15 times the traffic of this morning at 20% of the load. Nice.
Ovi Store registrations are flying off the charts with users from over 109 countries hammering the Ovi Store. I can’t get official numbers from Nokia at the moment, but I’m told things are going very well.
Who’d have thought it? Not me. I thought it would be well received by the Nokia geeks but not by the veritable legions.
It’s certainly rather annoying to have users hit the site and see a blank page for the first few hours of launch. But what I find more important is the sheer mass of interest.
The Nokia Ovi Store launch was always going to be an interesting blip in the mobile calendar this year. They are clearly interacting with users globally with Operator billing already live in some countries. I just wasn’t sure how big the blip was going to be.
I think it’s fair to say that, if the early interest (and pure excitement from many) is a guide, today marks a turning point of rather large proportions for Nokia.
It will be a few months before we’re able to really see the ramifications of this. I’m looking forward to getting a handle on just how many people begin using the service. I’m looking forward to properly trying it out (I’ve been refusing to play with the previous demos beyond having a little look, preferring to wait until it’s live). I’m looking forward to talking to the Ovi Store developers and launch partners, many of whom were sat nervously biting their nails.
I’m positively wetting myself at the prospect of being able to tell people, “Yeah, Gravity? Try it!” and know that all they need to do is visit http://store.ovi.com (web/mobile web/application) and type the word ‘gravity’ and woosh, it’ll be downloading in seconds.
If you don’t quite buy the concept of a successful Nokia Ovi Store — if you found yourself loving the opportunity to kick Nokia as a result of the early access problems (and goodness knows I’ve liberally dispensed by direct opinion about Nokia here on Mobile Industry Review in the past), just take a look at this:
There are 17 comments — so far — for Gravity, one of the very best Symbian clients on the market. 13 of those comments are from today. The latest one was posted a minute ago.
Let me also point out that Nokia is tracking users hitting Ovi not just with high-end £800 handsets — but with mid-range feature handsets. This is simply fantastic!
Make no mistake. Ovi Store is here, with bells on.
There are millions of Nokia fans around the planet who’ve seen the iPhone, the Pre and the other offerings. They’ve weighed them. They’ve measured them. And they’ve found them wanting.
For years they’ve been studiously enjoying the seriously powerful operating system, the gorgeous cameras, the brilliantly engineered hardware and the array of super software (that does run in the background!). But they’ve been seriously missing a central repository that Nokia has now provided.
I have been one of the most outspoken critics of Nokia for quite a while — I will continue to be so whilst the UI is rather annoying and the high-end device range is somewhat uninspiring — but I firmly believe in recognising credit where it’s due.
The Ovi Store isn’t quite there yet. There’s still a few bugs and some unanswered questions but broadly speaking, I’d like to formally say:
Good work Nokia!
Regardless of the crazy coverage from earlier on today, I can’t wait to see what everyone makes of the Ovi Store.
If you’ve got an opinion on the Ovi Store that you’d like published, drop me a note. I’m email@example.com.