The famous sales maxim is that a company is well advised to give away the razor in order to continually sell the blades. While nobody is giving away smartphones-far from it-the real value in the long run is going to be in the applications. There seems no better time to reinforce this notion than this week, as Nokia officially draws the curtain on The Ovi Store.
There are several high-profile application stores. In addition to the new Nokia entrant, Apple offers the App Store, Google sponsors the Android Market and RIM runs BlackBerry App World. Apps for Palm's Pre, which will be available in less than two weeks, will be sold at the App Catalog store. There also are sites, such as Handango, which sell applications for different operating system. More certainly will be added to both lists.
Applications is where the battle will be fought in general, and many of the most important skirmishes will be waged in the app store trenches. The most dramatic differences between the overall smartphones offerings will be in the creativity, elegance and efficiency of the apps. The focus will shift to the applications simply because it is far easier to realize creativity in code than in silicon. The devices themselves eventually will be fairly close in functionality. The all will have good user interfaces and will be similarly limited by the same power restrictions.
Within the big world of applications, the rising star may be smartphone applications aimed at small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs). One side of the app creation business, of course, is consumers. Fortune suggests that iPhone apps are a great opportunity for marketers, but developers are advised to think twice, especially if the crux of this interesting commentary at Stromcode proves to be true. The post suggests that anyone counting on making a living from writing consumer smartphone applications-at least for the iPhone-better have a good plan B in place if they include eating as something they like to do every day. Enterprises, of course, will either write their own applications or have them created in a custom or near-custom fashion by outsiders.
That leaves the vast SMB sector, which may turn out to be the sweet spot for app developers and storefronts. This fits into the related and equally interesting trend of the SMBs as the waking giant of the telecom and IT markets. If SMBs do show an appetite for deep smartphone use -- and they likely will -- expect these early days of storefronts jammed with games and ridiculous consumer applications to give way, at least to an extent, to a greater concentration of apps that help businesses that can't afford to write their own.