Pushing location beyond Nokia

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SummaryThe Finnish mobile device giant is taking the $6-billion location-based service opportunity very seriously. It has created a new service brand and plans to deliver its maps and location services across more screens and operating systems.

Just as search engines like Google and Bing redefined the ‘what’ category and Facebook redefined the ‘who’ category, Nokia is attempting to redefine the ‘where’ category to help people discover the world around them, courtesy its mapping technology. The Finnish handset maker, which claims to be the largest mapping company in the world—it has maps for more than 190 countries and more than 100 of these maps can be navigated—and gets one billion search queries annually, plans to deliver its maps and location services across more screens and operating systems. That is, beyond cars and beyond Nokia devices.

In this direction, Nokia has launched a maps app for Apple devices—iPhone, iPad as well as iPod Touch. Available for free on iTunes, the app is compatible with devices running on iOS 4.3 or later versions. It will include offline capabilities, voice-guided walk navigation, and public transport directions.

Nokia has also demonstrated an Android operating system-based app and announced plans for the availability of tools for Android device makers in early 2013. This is aimed at enabling partners to create location-based apps for Android devices with Nokia’s location and mapping content. The new mapping products have been branded as a new service called HERE. That’s not all: Nokia is also partnering Mozilla to bring new location experiences to the Firefox operating system. Nokia plans to debut a mobile Web version of HERE Maps for the new Firefox OS next year.

In simple terms, HERE is Nokia’s new brand for its location and mapping service for expanding its location based services beyond Symbian and Windows Phone to multiple operating systems, including iOS, Android and the nascent Firefox OS. Consulting firm Strategy Analytics puts Nokia in pole position for the $6 billion location based service opportunity. It feels that maximising both advertising and premium revenue opportunities from location based applications will require scale across a large base of mobile users.

“Establishing a new brand is the right move for Nokia in the map and location business,” says Crawford Del Prete, executive vice-president and head of worldwide research at IDC. “We believe mapping and location will be increasingly important to developing next generation devices and services across a wide array of segments.” Analysts estimate that Nokia gets about 1 billion euros per year from its mapping technology business.

Nokia has played a key role in the evolution of mobile phones, stresses Vipul Mehrotra, director & head of smart devices at Nokia India. “The first phase witnessed voice going wireless and the second found internet access going wireless. The current generation uses mobiles to detect useful information about locations. Location-based services are integral to Nokia’s future and a key way that we stand out from the crowd,” he adds.

“At a core level, HERE delivers a location platform, location content and location apps across any screen and any operating system,” says the Nokia India smart devices head. “We have seen a 75% increase in usage of maps, globally as well as in India. We can do more with our location heritage and mapping expertise, and go beyond a digital version of the paper map. Maps can be more than getting a person from point A to point B. They should bring places to life and inspire us to sense our world.”

At a strategic level, Nokia intends to boost its market position in the current mobile generation through attractive services that include both location aware and entertainment apps. These include Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive and Nokia City Lens, all which are a part of the Lumia smartphones. Nokia has also debuted LiveSight, a technology based on a highly accurate, 3D map of the world. Company officials claim that LiveSight provides the most precise and intuitive augmented reality experience and uses a phone’s camera viewfinder to make discovering the world as easy as lifting up a phone. Nokia City Lens, which was developed exclusively for Nokia Lumia devices, is the first app providing a LiveSight-enabled experience.

Nokia City Lens, exclusively available for Nokia Lumia, is one of the most-talked about apps and India is one of its big times users, says Vipul Mehrotra. City Lens is a new way to easily find information and services on the go. It is a fun and easy way to discover what is around you. Simply launch the app on your phone and City Lens will display the points of interests in the Camera viewfinder. It connects you to what you’re looking for—and more—exactly when and where you want it. Select your interests in many different categories—City Lens will filter the points of interests and present your choices. Go a step further and get details, read reviews of restaurants and hotels. With one tap you can make a reservation, or navigate to the location via turn by turn walking map. In India, City Lens is available for 4,000 mapped cities and towns.

Nokia Maps & Drive is a free mapping solution and service by Nokia for its mobile phones and smartphone devices. In India, Nokia maps are available for over 2,195 cities including over 20 million points of interest across the country. Currently maps are available for 100 countries in over 50 languages, including Hindi. “The Maps also have a search feature covering millions points of interest globally—allowing easy search for locations and the best directions to get there. You can also search by genre. For example foodies who love to sample the local fare in each city know that with Nokia Maps they will easily find the their restaurant and cuisine of choice,” informs the Nokia India smart devices head.

Nokia Drive enhances user experience with free turn-by-turn voice guided navigation, designed for an effortless driving experience and provides a fully-fledged PND-like experience. It helps users save costs with pre-loadable country map data and navigation voices. The on-device Map Loader also helps manage maps and navigation voices through Wi-Fi or 3G connections. Drive can also be used offline.

There is no doubt that Nokia provides leading mobile map and location service experiences on its own devices. However, its next challenge will be to drive the usage of what it calls “sensing the world around you” across other platforms and to drive revenue.

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