Nokia is partnering with AT&T to offer US$10 million in prizes to mobile application developers targeting North American users, in yet another attempt from the mobile giant to make an impact in the US

The contest invites developers from around the world to create applications for North American consumers that will appear in Nokia's Ovi Store. Three winners in 17 categories will get $150,000 each. An overall grand prize winner and the best game developer will each get an additional $100,000.

Nokia and AT&T will select the winners, but the number of downloads that each app gets will count as part of the winning criteria.

Developers must submit their applications by Jan. 28, 2011.

AT&T did not immediately reply to a request for comment about its interest in the contest. According to its website, AT&T sells three models of Nokia phones, none of which appears able to download apps from the Ovi Store. Neither company responded to questions about their contributions to the $10 million in award money.

Apps in the Ovi Store are accessible to users of certain Nokia phones. In the US, it appears that T-Mobile is the only operator selling a Nokia phone capable of downloading apps from the Ovi Store.

For years, Nokia has pledged its commitment to the U.S. while steadily losing market share. It has opened research offices here and talked about its interest in the market, but made little headway. The company recently hired a former Microsoft executive who is from North America to become its new CEO, fueling speculation that it could finally improve its fortunes in the market.

Nokia has also struggled to keep up with new rivals like Apple and Google in the growing smartphone market. It has open sourced and revamped the Symbian operating system and is working on another operating system called MeeGo in an attempt to better compete.

The Ovi Store currently has around 27,000 applications, according to Distimo, a company that does app store analytics.

Nokia's N8 phone, the first to run the latest version of Symbian, is expected to become available in October, but no U.S. operator has yet said it will sell the phone. That means U.S. consumers won't have the option of a discounted price for the phone that typically comes with a two-year service contract.