Matching Google Nokia Ovi Maps Offer Free Navigation on Handsets

In late 2007 Nokia bought Navteq for approximately $8.1 billion (EUR 5.7 billion). But since that time the GPS/PND market that Navteq serves has seen its fortunes decline with the rise of smartphones. When Google introduced free navigation and turn-by-turn directions on Android 2.0 devices that market was further threatened. Now Nokia itself is offering free navigation (via Ovi Maps) in a bid to stop its smartphone slide vs. Apple and Google. 

Nokia sees Ovi Maps as a platform on which third parties will develop (there's an API and SDK) and which can integrate local content from various sources as well as social networks such as Facebook. In a month Ovi Maps users will be able to get content and data from Lonely Planet and Michelin.

According to the press release:

Nokia has today announced plans to release a new version of Ovi Maps for its smartphones that includes high-end walk and drive navigation at no extra cost, available for download at www.nokia.com/maps. This move has the potential to nearly double the size of the current mobile navigation market.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.

There are also plans to eventually integrate ads onto the map. Navteq has been experimenting with advertising for over a year and last year acquired Acuity Mobile for LBS ads.

Nokia claims that its maps are more detailed, have better data and will work more often than Google's. While Google Maps requires a data connection, Nokia's do not because they're downloaded onto the handset. 

Two observations:

  • This probably does make Nokia handsets more interesting and competitive for some buyers; however it will be unlikely to stop the iPhone and Android's momentum in Europe (RIM is also growing partly at Nokia's expense outside the US.)
  • This further accelarates the decline of subscription-based navigation services and PNDs