You would hardly know it but Nokia owns Navteq and has for some time now. The Finnish device maker, seen by many as fledgling and gasping for air, is apparently now looking at rolling Navteq into the fold and hoping that LBS may result in LB$. FYI, let it be known that I am hardly one of those who believes that Nokia is failing or going under. Rather, I feel that the company is struggling to catch up in the lucrative smartphone market, this the result of being pretty much blown out of the water in North America by the likes of RIM, the Android and iOS markets. This has resulted in a widespread attitude in America that Nokia is going down. Keep in mind though that the World is a very big place and there is much more to the mobile ecosystem than the smartphone user (think India, Indonesia, China, Vietnam etc…).
I’ve often wondered though why it has never been very visible that Nokia does in fact own data provider Navteq. Unless you happen to follow the industry or read the news you likely would have no idea. However, it appears that in Nokia’s most recent re-branding efforts that could change. the company is removing the Ovi branding from apps and services with the likes of Ovi store to be replaced by the Nokia Store or Marketplace, Ovi Maps to be Nokia Maps etc… Of particular interest, with Nokia S40 devices maturing rapidly, these traditional “lower end” devices are rapidly catching up to smartphones in features, style, connectivity and usability, however, they remain low in price and very attractive for markets where there’s tremendous potential, including Nokia’s goal to connect the next 1 billion users to the Internet. Of particular interest I think is that new S40 devices from Nokia (like the Nokia C2-03) also boast the ability to take advantage of location provisioning enabling users to take advantage of local content and location aware apps and services – enter Navteq once again! Also of interest, Maps and location are coming to S40 device users with embedded offline Nokia maps that will also include locally relevant content. Something else to consider is that in markets outside of Europe and North America, Nokia has had tremendous success with operators and with carrier billing. Consider also that currently, Ovi store boasts 6 million downloads per day and Operator billing is in place with 121 operators in 42 markets – according to Nokia when operator billing is provided to the user the result is 5X greater revenues and uptake by users… kaching! Perhaps now you see where I’m heading with this… interesting to note, just this week an article appeared on Reuters and looked at Nokia and Navteq and discussed the recent appointment of Michael Halbherr to lead a new location & commerce business.
This from Reuters… Nokia said on Wednesday it would incorporate Navteq, an independent unit specializing in the fast-growing digital mapping, into its broader services business. Map-linked advertising, key to generating cash from location-based services, is starting to take off and is expected by Pyramid Research to grow to over $6.2 billion by 2015… Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop also named Michael Halbherr, an outspoken executive who joined Nokia in 2006, to lead the new Location & Commerce business line. Halbherr was the mastermind behind Nokia’s $8.1 billion 2008 acquisition of Navteq, the world’s largest digital map maker, in the largest-ever takeover by the 146-year old company.
The North American and European market is a different place though. In the smartphone space Nokia has confused man and left us all scratching our heads. Even though the company boasts in excess of 100 million Qt devices in use around the World they stand committed to the Windows Phone for their future smartphones (think N series devices) yet users are still waiting for the first true Nokia ? Windows phone to surface. This week we heard that we can expect said device to surface late in 2011, however, the company is still rolling out new “flagship” devices like the recently announced Nokia N9, another touch smartphone but no Windows Phone OS. The N9 (see device specs) Nokia non-Windows smartphones will run MeeGo OS while there are reportedly other Nokia devices coming that will run Symbian Anna (the latest incarnation of Symbian) which boasts loads of new functionality including more speed, a new improved browser, an overall faster experience, integrated search, tighter security and a new, integrated Nokia maps client.
The fragmentation and confusion for the North American developer is therefore understandable. Perhaps the safest thing for application developers looking to land their apps in the Nokia Market is to look at S40 and to get a jump on deploying Windows Phone apps. There’s huge opportunity in store for those churning out killer apps to run on the first Nokia / Windows smartphones and my personal hint… look at location-aware apps and those that take advantage of Nokia maps and social media connectivity!