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Yesterday Nokia announced Ovi Store, which seemed to be the Finnish giant's answer to the wildly popular app stores on Apple and Google phones -- but there's a twist. We sat down with Nokia's Björn Wigforss for a hands-on demo, and showered him with questions.

The storefront

The photo above demonstrates the main page of recommended applications. Some are free and some cost money to download -- Nokia will give 70 per cent of the application's cost to its developer, and keep 30 per cent for itself. This is pretty standard stuff.

Like the iPhone's app store, applications can be downloaded over Wi-Fi or 3G, and if the app is free, there's no charge to you (unless the network charges for data transfer). Apps are all hosted in the cloud on Nokia's servers, and downloaded apps will be backed up through Nokia PC Suite when synced with a computer.

The apps themselves can only be initially downloaded on the handset, however, although PC-based side-loading is in the works, we were told.

Background processes

Nokia's application platform allows programs to continue running, even when it's not being used. This means apps such as Facebook's forthcoming Ovi app can pop a message up on your phone's home screen to tell you a new message has been received, or that you've been invited to a new event. This is one of the biggest differences between Nokia's application platform and Apple's.

Location-aware recommendation engine

Another big difference is that Ovi Store will take advantage of a user's position on the planet, using GPS. The phone will know you've travelled to Spain, as we have, and can then offer you applications based on your location: maps, language translation and more. There will also be social recommendations between friends, and suggestions based on the type of apps you tend to like, but this wasn't demoed to us, so we don't know much more yet.

It's a good-looking app store, with heaps of potential for media-rich apps, such as the Ice Age 3 app we saw from 20th Century Fox. The app includes a game, the movie's trailer and synopsis, and a link to find cinemas playing the movie, shown on a map based on your location.

Restrictions for developers

When quizzed about restrictions placed on developers, Wigforss told us that Nokia "[doesn't] want to exclude good content," so even apps that compete directly with Nokia's native apps -- IM or media players, for example -- won't be blocked from the app store. All applications will be moderated by Nokia, however, mostly for legal and copyright-related issues. Additionally, don't expect to see any adult shenanigans on Ovi -- porn is a no-go zone.

UK availability

The Ovi Store will go live in May, and the Nokia N97 will be the first handset to ship with Ovi installed natively. Nokia will, for no cost, push it over the air to 50 million existing and compatible handsets, including the N96, N95, N85, N79, 5310, 6300, N82 and E65. The new 5800 XpressMusic was 'TBD' when we asked, and although we weren't given a definitive answer, it seems users won't have to install Ovi if they don't want to.

Check the next few pages for hands-on pics with the Ovi Store, its apps and the installation process.

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The screen you'll see when previewing an app for download.
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The installation process is a one-click effort, and is installed within the download environment.
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Hurrah! App installed.
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