Aalto University, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) have joined forces to create the AppCampus program for app development.
The AppCampus was launched March 26 at the Aalto Centre for Entrepreneurship (AaltoACE) in Otaniemi, Espoo, Finland. Each of the participating companies plans to contribute €9 million ($12 million) over three years starting next month.
The program will focus on giving students and startups the tools, training, funding, and infrastructure to create great apps for the Windows phone ecosystem, as well as for all Nokia platforms, including the Series 40, Symbian, and HTLM5 languages.
Qualified projects from the StartUp Sauna and Summer of Startups will be encouraged to apply to the AppCampus for support. And it will not be limited to Finnish startups or developers. According to Will Cardwell, head of AaltoACE, this initiative is meant to be an extremely competitive international program attracting the best ideas from around the world. There are no restrictions on the location of applicants.
The grant application process for mobile entrepreneurs will start in May through the AppCampus Website. After approval, the first grants will be available at the end of June, and they will be renewed in monthly cycles.
After obtaining a grant, developers and teams will be asked to commit to six months of developing apps exclusively on the AppCampus platforms. The participants will retain the full intellectual property rights of their innovations. Cardwell said at a press event on March 26 that the first apps should be on the market by the first quarter of next year.
A lot of interaction is expected between the AppCampus and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology ICT, most specifically with its EIT ICT Labs.
The program is expected to produce enterprise apps. "It is fair to assume that healthcare, education, and energy are probably going to be in the mix," said Cardwell. "All Windows phones and Nokia software platforms are on the table."
The AppCampus could improve Nokia's position in the smartphone market. By adding good and varied apps, which seem to be what the the Nokia phones are lacking, the company increases the possibility of consumers choosing one of its phones as their next mobile phone purchase. The Helsinki Times reported on a recent survey in which 37 percent of respondents said their next mobile phone would be a Nokia.
However, it’s too soon to tell whether the AppCampus will help put Nokia back in place as a mobile phone world leader. But at least the project could give Nokia a competitive place among manufacturers. There may even be some advantage in the first six months of exclusivity that developers agree to respect when being accepted into the AppCampus program.
In September, Nokia World 2012 will be held for the first time in Finland instead of London. And it just might surprise us with great news in the mobile and tablet fronts. After all, Nokia plans to release Windows 8 tablets.
At the very least, the AppCampus program promises to produce a new generation of innovative mobile startups.
— Susan Fourtané is a freelance journalist based in Finland.