Nokia Debuts Preminet Service

By Mac McCarthy

In an effort to make it easier to sell, distribute and buy
cell-phone applications, Nokia has announced the launch
of Preminet, a service to distribute certified Java- and Symbian-based
mobile software.

At the heart of Preminet, which Nokia says has been in beta test for
more than a year with a number of carriers, is a master catalog of
certified applications. Developers can get their applications into the
catalog through a process that includes relatively inexpensive
certification testing.

Cell phone operators access Preminet in the form of a Nokia-hosted
service that, according to Nokia, can easily integrate into their
existing delivery mechanisms including authentication and billing
systems. Also available is a carrier-brandable, client-side, catalog-shopping
application.

Testing The Testing

Developers will be able to submit their applications for
certification using existing Nokia labs worldwide, which use Java-verified
and Symbian-signed testing methods supported by many mobile
operators and handset vendors, as well as Sun Microsystems and Symbian.

According to Lee Epting, vice-president of developer community Forum
Nokia, a typical Java application test should cost about $150 and take
three to five days. Native Symbian apps cost about $350.
There is also a self-sign test program available for operators who will
accept them; the test suites are priced at a few hundred dollars each.
Certification also verifies screenshots, icons, content guidelines and
even documentation.

For the past two years, rival Qualcomm has
offered a similar system to certify and deliver BREW-based applications
to operators offering its line of cell phones, with apparent success.
Nokia’s Epting said the Nokia Preminet system, in contrast to the BREW
model, is “open” in that it supports third-party catalogs that
operators may already have in place, so it can sit next to the carrier’s
other discovery mechanisms. BREW’s rigorous application certification
process for developers is also more expensive, at several thousand
dollars per application.

Nokia will assist carriers with initial evaluation and API
integration. Initial evaluation takes about two weeks; integration and
customization takes up to two months, depending on the complexity of the
carrier’s existing system, and is performed by Nokia integration
partners.

Epting said Nokia has in place a “premier” catalog of several hundred
certified applications, most of which are from members of its Forum Nokia Pro
developers, and others of which are from software aggregators and publishers. Preminet
starts with 300 to 500 core content items. Setting of prices and
carrier-developer revenue splits takes place in the master catalog.
Nokia has some experience with this based on its year-old Tradepoint
application marketplace operation.

The optional handset client handles details of shopping and
provisioning; it knows the capabilities of the handset compared to the
requirements of the application, allows previews and handles
installation. Currently the system offers previews and full purchases of
applications. Time-based and per-use purchase models, currently offered
by the BREW client, may be supported later by the Nokia client depending
on demand.

Pundits continue to predict a bright future for the mobile
phone-based applications market, especially as sales of more capable
cell phones grow. Some 600 carriers worldwide have sold more than 350 million
Java-enabled handsets so far.

Mac McCarthy is vice president and editorial
director for DevX, a Jupitermedia site.

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