Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo called on smartphone application developers to turn their attention to emerging countries, highlighting the vast business potential in these markets and the opportunity to improve the lives of the billions of people living there.
While most smartphone developers are understandably focused on customers living in mature markets, such as the U.S., there are bigger opportunities for them in the developing world, where mobile phones are reshaping business and society, Kallasvuo said during a keynote speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
"In the real world, far away from here, these little devices have already done more to improve people's lives at the base of the pyramid than any other device in history," Kallasvuo said.
Emerging countries are an important market for Nokia and it has developed phones -- like the US$32 Nokia 1616 -- tailored to the needs of users living there. The company has also developed mobile applications for these markets, such as Life Tools, which gives farmers living in India and Indonesia access to crop prices and weather forecasts, as well as offering English lessons.
Nokia also hopes to reshape finance and banking in developing countries with Nokia Money, a mobile banking application, Kallasvuo said, noting that the world has 4.6 billion cell-phone subscriptions but just 1.6 billion bank accounts. "There is tremendous potential in mobile banking," he said.
Nokia Money allows users to send money to other people, make purchases and top up their prepaid cards. The application will be rolled out commercially during the first half of this year, Kallasvuo said.
E-mail is another opportunity in emerging markets. Nokia's Ovi e-mail service, which allows people to sign up for an e-mail account when they purchase a Nokia phone, signed up 5 million users during its first year of operation, Kallasvuo said.
Developers who want to reach customers in emerging markets and tap into these opportunities can use Nokia's application marketplace.
"A developer today in Palo Alto can come up with an idea and push it through Novia's Ovi store and within an hour people around the world can be downloading it," Kallasvuo said, calling Nokia and Symbian a "prime export channel."
To encourage developers to focus on emerging markets, Kallasvuo announced a business competition for companies or individuals who develop hardware, software and services designed for markets where incomes do not exceed US$5 per day. The winner of the Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge will receive a US$1 million investment from Nokia to develop their business idea, he said.
The winner of the competition will be announced in June.