Nokia launches the N97, N86 8MP and Ovi Store in South Africa

Nokia launched the much anticipated N97 as well as a hot little camera focussed phone, the N86 8MP at a launch hosted at Turbine Hall in Newtown, Johannesburg on Thursday, 16 July 2009. It also made a number of announcements about the Ovi Store and a competition launched for local developers. I captured some of the initial announcements on my N97 and prepared this brief video. You get a sense of how the N97’s camera performs in low light (I was a few metres from the stage) and also what the event was about. Bear in mind this was a media event, hence the pitch.

I covered part of the event on FriendFeed and you can read what I posted below:

This event was pretty similar to the event I attended in Dubai almost 2 months ago. Much of the focus was on the Ovi Store (Nokia’s relaunched application and content store) and devices like the N97 as platform devices. The one central theme is that the N97 is intended to support whatever your specific needs are so it has the capability to run a variety of widgets and applications. The N97’s home screen is the first Nokia device to support these widgets which, as I understand it, are built using open technologies and tools used to develop Web pages and applications rather than some arcane and proprietary code.

Nokia also announced the Calling All Innovators competition for South African developers. The idea behind this competition is to introduce local developers to Nokia’s development environment and tools and encourage them to begin developing for the Ovi Store. The slides and video below should both give you a pretty good idea what the whole thing is all about:

… and the video …

Much of the Ovi Store announcement’s emphasis was on developing local content and applications for a South African audience. This emphasis was pretty much the same as in Dubai where the emphasis was on the Middle East and developing Arabic content in particular. The Ovi Store is a good idea and given that it is so new, it lacks the variety and richness of the iTunes Application Store and similar stores for other platforms. What remains to be seen is whether Nokia can inspire enough developers to create quality applications for the Ovi Store. The revenue split alone should help. I believe developers receive 60% to 70% of the revenue from their content and applications (if they choose to sell them). Nokia also has a pretty substantial potential install base although there are 3 main platforms in use at the moment (S40, S60 – and its two main variations, 3rd and 5th editions – and Maemo). I don’t really know much about the complexity of developing for the 3rd edition variations but it may narrow the field a little. What we may well see is a range of specialised applications optimised for specific Symbian flavours like the 5th edition which runs on the N97 and its predecessor, the 5800 XpressMusic.

The Ovi Store got off to a rocky start and one of the annoyances I encounter from time to time (and other people have raised a similar issue) is the fact that some applications are on the Store one day and gone the next. We were presented with a News24 application in a product demo at the event and I am yet to see it in the Store on my N97. There are a series of permissions based on location and device type but that just adds to the frustration. Nokia’s product range and platform variety is both a blessing and a curse. Sure there is scope to develop for lower and higher end devices in different contexts but are there too many factors to juggle for this to be appealing enough to developers?

Another device launched at the event is the N86 8MP (8 megapixel). This little device packs a pretty powerful camera and while I don’t think the person Nokia brought in to talk about the device really did it justice (she seemed to be a photographer). I won’t go into the device in much detail. The big appeal with this one is the camera which is pretty impressive. I have seen photos taken with it in daylight and the photos are amazing. I don’t know how the camera performs in low light (as good as my N97’s camera is, photos in low light are not so hot) but if it performs well under those conditions this could be a terrific replacement for your usual point and shoot camera.

At the end of the evening we were treated to a pretty spectacular show. Nokia always hosts the best events! I managed to get this video of a performance that tool place right where I was standing. The commentary in the background was pretty amusing too, part of it was from me and Saul Kropman. This performance alone was pretty impressive!

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