Nokia News from Barcelona: Maps, Ovi Apps and Skype

There were a slew of announcements from Nokia at Barcelona this week. Here's a rundown:

The Finland-based OEM announced, as expected, its version of the iTunes apps store: the Ovi Store. It offers some interesting and intelligent twists: personalization and recommendations from friends, as well as location sensitivity. The rev share between Nokia and developers is the same 70-30 split as the iTunes store.

Ovi

The company also announced new GPS enabled phones integrated with Nokia Maps (NAVTEQ). 

Skype announced a deal with Nokia to preload the VoIP software on Nokia/Symbian smartphones:

Under the terms of the cooperation, Skype will be integrated into Nokia devices, starting with the Nokia Nseries. The Nokia N97 flagship device will be the first to incorporate the Skype experience in the 3rd quarter of 2009.

The Skype experience will be part of the address book of the Nokia N97, enabling presence - seeing when Skype contacts are online - as well as instant messaging. Nokia N97 owners around the world will also be able to use 3G and WLAN to easily make and receive free Skype-to-Skype voice calls, in addition to low-cost Skype calls to landlines and mobile devices.

Quality issues notwithstanding, Skype stands to gain hugely from adoption by mobile users as a way to circumvent the cost of voice plans, especially in Europe. Skype is also working with other handset OEMs. 

In general, however, improved VoIP on mobile phones is a development that may eventually put price pressure on carrier voice plans. Because of quality, however, that day is not yet at hand. 

Nokia and Qualcomm announced a deal to work on "advanced mobile devices" with Qualcomm chipsets targeting North America, one of Nokia's weakest markets. 

But the apps store/Ovi store was the focus of the week for Nokia. Everyone now has an apps store: Apple, Android, Windows Mobile, RIM, Palm and Nokia/Symbian. It has become "table stakes" in the smartphone market. Accordingly the Nokia/Ovi apps store is unlikely to lure people away from BlackBerry or the iPhone. But it remains to be seen how all the hardware and software variables (operator pricing is another) play out competitively over time.