Companies like Nokia were in the mobile phone business long before Apple but with the iPhone and App Store, Apple has been able to eclipse larger rivals in the innovation department.

Today, Nokia fired back at the App Store with an app store of its own: Ovi Store.

In a launch announcement on the Nokia Conversations blog, Nokia’s Mike Cooper wrote that Nokia believes the Ovi Store will “spark a rapid evolution in the way we all use our mobile devices“.

By going to store.ovi.com or the Download! section of their phone, Nokia owners can sign in to the Ovi Store and start consuming.

Unfortunately, things are off to a rocky start at the moment. According to Nokia, “Extraordinarily high spikes of traffic” have led tosome performance issues” and lots of people are reporting that the Ovi Store is slow or completely inaccessible. Steve Litchfield of AllAboutSymbian.com and Robin Wauters of TechCrunch chimed in with further complaints, of which there are plenty floating around. Perhaps the most problematic: complaints about the poor selection of apps.

To be fair to Nokia, launching the Ovi Store isn’t an easy undertaking. Unlike Apple, Nokia has a portfolio of devices that it offers around the world and it serves over 50m phone owners. That means it reasonably faces a lot of challenges that Apple didn’t. There’s no way this global launch like this would be easy for any company.

But that’s no excuse. Consumers want service and performance. Right now, it looks like Nokia is struggling to provide that. Obviously it’s early in the Ovi Store’s life and Nokia has plenty of potential customers, even if some were turned away today.

Nokia’s fate with the Ovi Store will rest in making sure that the store is easily accessible and filled to the brim with compelling apps. Given the lure of Apple’s App Store and all of the development platforms developers have to choose from today, the latter may turn out to be Nokia’s biggest challenge.

If Nokia isn’t able to convince developers that the Ovi Store is reliable enough to get consumers through the purchasing process, many developers will go elsewhere. Today’s rocky start probably hasn’t helped Nokia in that regard.

Photo credit: aresjoberg via Flickr.