Ovi.com is more meh than mind blowing

I posted this one a little too soon so I have edited it a little. The edits are in italics or strikethrough. Sorry about the premature posting!

Ovi.com is Nokia’s answer to MobileMe (formerly .Mac) and a collection of similar services operated by the likes of Google. At least, that is how I see Ovi.com.

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Ovi.com is a gateway or portal to a range of services Nokia has created. These services include Share (photo and video sharing), Contacts, Maps, N-gage, Music (a portal to Nokia Music), Files and Calendar. The range of services on offer is, at first glance, impressive and you can easily imagine shifting most, if not all, of your computer-based activities into the cloud. One big advantage of Ovi.com is that many of its services are designed to interact with Nokia devices and enable you to synchronise your device with the Ovi cloud. Unfortunately Ovi.com is still something of a disappointment, at least to me.

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Ovi.com is a mixed bag. Each service on the site has its own design and although they share some common design elements, there isn’t a consistent look and feel throughout. Ovi Contacts looks cluttered whereas Ovi Share has a clean look and the swish fishbowl widget displaying media from your library. Opening Ovi Maps or Music will take you out of a consistent Ovi environment and into a separate Maps or Music site. The Ovi.com portal isn’t really a portal but a loose association of services. I was going to say that other portal sites are more consistent in terms of their look and feel but Yahoo!, one of the oldest, has different designs for each sub-site too. I could be a little too critical here but there is something about the inconsistency in the Ovi.com design across the various services that puts me off and suggests it was all put together a little haphazardly.

To add to this the urls for the services are not consistent either. To get to Contacts you click through to http://www.ovi.com/services/contacts?lid=ContactsBridge whereas to visit most of the other services the url convention is servicename.ovi.com (with the exception of N-gage which directs to its own url).

There are also a number of features which should be available and which are simply not. I don’t know if this is because they weren’t deemed important or if the developers simply didn’t have any regard to other services and draw on those services for inspiration and examples of best practices. Examples of these deficiencies include RSS feeds for content shared on Share Online; the ability to scan my contacts lists on other services like Google, Twitter and Facebook and find friends also using Ovi; the ability to replace my synchronised contacts on Ovi Contacts with an up to date version and more.

Of course there is also the perennial compatibility issue. Ovi Maps is not available to people not running a Windows machine. The Nokia Music Store is only accessible to Windows users. This is one of the reasons I am still a little ambivalent about Nokia services. Despite its emphasis on open source and developing cross platform applications, important software like Nokia Software Updater and even PC Suite are not available for non-Windows users. This shouldn’t be an issue any longer and yet I have to bastardise mutilate my wife’s Mac to install Windows for the purpose of running PC Suite.

I don’t accept that services and software can’t be written for multiple platforms. I do understand that Windows is, by far, the dominant platform of choice but there are increasing numbers of Mac and Linux users who would like to take advantage of Nokia’s desktop software and even update their software (that being said, many higher end devices will soon be able to update their software over the air). I don’t like feeling like something of a second class citizen because I chose a Mac and not a Windows machine. Nokia needs to address this sooner rather than later.

Returning to Ovi.com, I believe that the portal/platform has tremendous potential despite its failings. The Ovi Store has come under fire lately and I believe that its initial troubles belie its potential as a significant player in the mobile services business. The rest of the services on Ovi.com are decent enough for most and at the same time disappointing for a vocal few.



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