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Microsoft-Nokia to push Navteq assets ahead in social location apps

One of the best things that Nokia managed to do last year was to make its turn by turn driving instructions free by allowing Nokia handsets to have Na

By PETER WHITE

Published: 28 April, 2011

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One of the best things that Nokia managed to do last year was to make its turn by turn driving instructions free by allowing Nokia handsets to have Navteq (Ovi) maps for free. Now that Nokia and Microsoft are working together on mobile software and services, the $8 billion Navteq acquisition, which so far hasn’t paid off for Nokia, has come center stage.

Navteq is now set to become the key location partner for Windows Phone 7 - and why wouldn’t Microsoft extend that to all future Windows platforms , including tablets and notebooks. The plan now appears to deliberately accelerate this key asset of Nokia in order to get ahead of Google in particular in what Nokia has always called 'SoLo' or social location.

Despite Google maps being a default for most people on the web, the Navteq maps content is far more detailed, global and accurate. Now a leaked memo picked up by the Phone Scoop blog, says that a huge overhaul of Navteq is on the way, leading off with an integrating between navigation and social networking apps. From May 1, Nokia will have a new business unit, headed by EVP Tero Ojanpera and Navteq CEO Larry Kaplan, which will bring together all the Finnish giant's location assets. Its remit will be to develop advanced geo-specific social networking services, as well as pursuing the trend for 'hyperlocal' advertising and promotion.

Google has made acquisitions and developments in SoLo and hyperlocal search, but has failed, so far, to repeat its huge success in search-related ads, and remains overshadowed by Facebook. As that social giant increasingly expands its mobile and location activities, Nokia and Microsoft need to go on the offensive.

The new unit will target current Symbian devices and, of course, future Nokia WP7 products, and its platform is likely to become part of the mainstream Microsoft web services platform too. Nokia has already announced plans for its own-branded app store based on Microsoft infrastructure, and this latest news is a further indication of how the companies will knit together their mobile web developer communities and applications. Microsoft's Bing search engine, which is gaining on Google in some sectors, will incorporate Nokia Maps, as will its AdCenter platform.

The new unit will also "focus on horizontal services that target Nokia devices, and beyond Nokia devices, including the ongoing availability of Navteq data to all its B2B partners", said the memo.

Nokia kicked off a stream of location oriented acquisitions and launches when it paid $8.1 billion for Navteq in late 2007. The high price tag was criticized at the time, but somewhat justified when Nokia made one of its few big hits in the smartphone web market, when it outmaneuvered Google by making Navteq services free. Other Nokia location purchases have included 3D urban modeling specialist PixelActive and crowdsourced traffic alerts firm Trapster.

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