Nokia extends its phone maps to the Web

Nokia's navigation system lets people save map locations and routes to the Web and then synchronize them with their phones

Nokia is extending its mobile navigation system to the Web via its site, where people will be able to save map locations and routes and then synchronize them with their phones.

Maps on Ovi, unveiled Monday at the Where 2.0 conference in Burlingame, California, builds on Nokia's next generation of mobile-phone navigation technology, Nokia Maps 2.0. It also signals Nokia's growing focus on software and services, even for use independent of its mobile phones.

Ovi is a Nokia Web portal for Internet services such as content sharing. Maps on Ovi will let people use and mark up maps on the Web and then upload their changes to a cell phone, said Michael Halbherr, vice president of context-based services at Nokia. For example, before traveling to another city, a user could pick out places to visit and the routes to those sites from his hotel. Once saved on Ovi, that information would be copied onto his phone automatically at the next synchronization, Halbherr said.

In addition, the user could walk or drive around the city and save his route on the phone, then upload that to his Ovi map. Sights along the way that he marked as interesting could be uploaded to the Web map, which eventually could provide a wealth of information about those places from a variety of sources. Nokia expects to deliver that information on the Web-based map through mashups with partners, which might include user-generated review sites such as TripAdvisor, Halbherr said.

Later, Nokia will let users of Ovi share their routes and tips with friends. For example, a company could put together a set of suggestions for employees visiting its headquarters city, Halbherr said.

Maps on Ovi will become available by the end of September, Nokia said. It may or may not be in beta at that time, but it will be fairly close to production quality in any case, he said.

Initially, Maps on Ovi will work only with Nokia phones, but the company intends to make it independent of its hardware. Nokia intends to succeed as a software and services company independent of its phones, Halbherr said. This is true even in the U.S., where Nokia's smartphones have had trouble gaining traction.

"We are running a software business," Halbherr said. "We'll do whatever we need to do to make (inroads) in the U.S. It may be a Nokia device, or it may not."

Maps 2.0 is a set of navigation capabilities, the fruit of Nokia's acquisition of Gate5, that was introduced in February and is now in beta for Nokia's Series 60 operating system. It includes features such as routes and directions designed for pedestrians instead of drivers. That software will emerge from beta by early next month for Series 60 phones, which include N-Series and E-Series smartphones as well as some less expensive devices, Nokia said. By the end of this year, a reduced version of Maps 2.0 will become available in beta for the company's lower-end Series 40 OS, Halbherr said.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.