Just recently Nokia, the Finnish born mobile phone manufacturer, put up a competition to find the most innovative mobile apps. We believe this might be part of a bigger initiative to reach out to startups in the wake of what App Store has done for Apple.

The word on the street is that Nokia is really(!) trying to reinvent themselves. This does not only mean shifting the focus partly from hardware to software such as Ovi service which just launched recently, but also possibly finding new partners in the platform area in order to create an ecosystem similar to what Apple is doing with App Store.

Not only has Nokia been sniffing around in Android developer conferences, but when I recently spoke to a Nokia employee working high up in the organization he was carefully asking around how a platform change away from Symbian would affect the startup scene over here in Finland. This might just be speculation or part of a careful scenario planning exercise from Nokia’s part, but then again it might be much more that.

Now, Nokia has put up a mobile app competition (here) which is clearly part of their answer to Apple’s App Store. The contest is open for everyone: independent developers, startups, and so on. There are three different categories for submission:

  1. Eco challenge (looking for apps that help make sustainable choices)
  2. Emerging market challenge (apps to empower people in developing countries)
  3. Technology showcase challenge (looking for killer apps which feature cutting edge mobile technologies)

Winners of each contest will receive $25K cash prize, will be able to distribute their apps through Nokia channels, with possibility to meet VCs, showcase their apps in Mobile World Congress 09 in Barcelona.

The big question is that do these pieces add up to something much more than what we’re currently seeing. Will Nokia take up Android to challenge Apple’s App Store? What do you think?

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