Take and upload first, ask permission later. That seems to be the tactic that Nokia and Opera, who is running the app store behind the scenes, is adopting in trying to entice Android developers to make their apps available for Nokia’s Android smartphones.
Like Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, Nokia X runs a customized Android user interface and experience different from what you’d usually see on Google-blessed devices. Nonetheless, Android is Android and Nokia has wisely advertised that most Android apps, at least those that don’t rely heavily on Google Mobile Services, will work on the Nokia X and the Nokia XL without requiring developers to lift a finger. Nokia has tried to make it even easier for developers by creating a Nokia account for them and uploading their app to the store, ready for Nokia X owners to download and enjoy. The only problem is that these developers were informed of that only at the last moment.
To be fair, this is not completely Nokia’s fault, though it’s hard to imagine that it would not be aware of this process. Opera, perhaps more popular for its web browsers, both desktop and mobile, is as much or even more to blame. Opera is the one handling Nokia’s Android app store and is thus responsible for curating the apps on it. It has its own Opera Mobile Store, which showcases apps meant not just for mobile devices but even for desktops or web browsers. What Opera has done is to try to remove psychological, emotional, or technical barriers that would prevent or delay Android developers from uploading their apps. Unfortunately, it might have caused an even bigger barrier of mistrust. Opera has sent out emails to developers, such as the one pictured below sent to ADW Launcher developers, informing them of the act.
In its eagerness to populate its app store with popular Android apps, Nokia might have, inadvertently or not, turned off the very developers it wanted to woo. The situation isn’t black or white, especially in the legal sense. Did Nokia and Opera do something illegal? Probably not, depending on Google Play Store’s terms of service and the app’s own license. In this case, it has mostly taken apps that are free anyway. But was it the right thing to do? Unlikely, especially from a social perspective. The act will definitely cause developers to feel violated or cheated, even if they haven’t been, or at least not yet. At the very least, they could have first asked developers’ permission before actually creating the account and uploading. It will likely take more work and some developers might decide not to push through, but it builds trust, which is important in a nascent and, to be honest, uncertain platform like Nokia’s. Opera and Nokia probably chose to take the most efficient route, but it might end up being the least effective path.