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Nokia democratises GPS navigation with Ovi Maps

Nokia is gunning for the personal navigation marketplace with today’s announcement that all future Nokia handsets will include free navigation services including turn-by-turn driving directions (and walking directions) for almost the entire planet.

It’s a stunning move that puts Google and the other handset manufacturers squarely on the back foot. As of 1030am today, around 83 million Nokia devices currently in the market can enjoy free navigation — all they have to do is download the package at

But what’s more interesting is that from now on, every new (decent) Nokia handset will have GPS navigation support pre-installed. That is, you won’t even need to download anything. For example, buy a handset in the UK and it’ll have not only the full UK maps installed — but also the rest of Europe. If you want the North American maps, no bother. It’s a free download. And everything will be automatically upgraded as necessary. Likewise, buy a Nokia in India and it’ll come with all the relevant maps for that geographic area pre-installed.

They’ve done some serious work on the maps back-end too. Out go high-bandwidth bitmap images and in comes super-data-efficient vector graphics that look pretty amazing. Plus, maps works offline too. So you don’t have to keep your phone’s data connection active when you’re roaming unless you want to.

Nokia have also included Lonely Planet guides (and a whole host of other premium location-based content) at no additional cost. It’s going to all be there.

Plus, you’re now going to have some rather effective social location based facilities — including a direct link to the likes of Facebook that’ll enable you to post your current location as you wish.

The size and the scale of the move is dramatic. As the release points out:

The new version of Ovi Maps includes high-end car and pedestrian navigation features, such as turn-by-turn voice guidance for 74 countries in 46 languages, and traffic information for more than 10 countries, as well as detailed maps for more than 180 countries


But there’s more. The development potential is simply massive. By making turn-by-turn navigation and location services available to every device, Nokia has established one of the largest audiences for mobile location-based services. This year alone Nokia should manufacturer and sell about — what — 80 odd million devices? By the end of 2011, the market should be getting toward 200 million.

200 million people who’ll all be looking for train times mashed up with Pizza Express locations. Or games that I can play with my Facebook friends with integrated location features.

I love the fact that Nokia — with this rather aggressive move — has actually democratised the market. Anyone across the planet who buys a $100 Nokia handset will have access to these services for free. I love it.

It’s a strong, strong move — and a massive challenge for the rest of the marketplace. I can very much see your average consumer walking into a shop and selecting a Nokia simply because of this offering.

In the West, I can imagine a lot of us simply buying a £100 Nokia and sticking it in the car to replace (or instead of) the TomTom.

The issues for the likes of TomTom are clear — last time I checked their shares were down 10% on the news. I don’t blame the market. Spare a thought for Sony Ericsson and Samsung who are now relegated substantially to third place ahead of Google’s “inferior” North American-only service (“inferior” is how Nokia referred to Google’s offering this morning — and having seen the Ovi Maps service, I agree).

Google can theoretically extend its navigation option to Europe. They’ll have substantial trouble matching Nokia’s comprehensive offering.

i think this is a super move by Nokia. It’s good to see the company flex its sizeable muscles. The mood around the launch was positive, confident, combative. They’re very proud of what they’ve delivered. They should be.

Everything you need?

(Written at 70mph on the M4, on a Nokia Booklet 3G with Vodafone SIM — I was in the passenger seat!)

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