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The Next Step in Social Location

Nokia has launched the latest version of its mapping services under the Ovi umbrella brand. With this release, Nokia is moving into the mashup domain by making its mapping software open to a greater level of integration, sharing and collaboration with its audience. The erstwhile mapping application known as Nokia Maps Beta 3.0 for the past couple of months, has now got an overhaul with several improvements and enhancements through additional features and services. These include high resolution satellite and terrain maps — both in 2D and 3D views — 3D landmarks for over 200 cities, rotation, tilting, night view, and fly-overs and fly-throughs. The application now called Ovi Maps also offers enriched Point Of Interest information sourced from providers such as Lonely Planet, Michelin and Wcities. It will also feature a weather service that provides 24-hour and 5-day forecasts. With this release, Nokia is also trying to move away from standard size maps that are found on most other mapping services, to vector-graphic maps. They seem to be a combination of real images and overlays.

The application has a web version as well if you want to browse through it on your desktop instead of a mobile device. With the web app, you can search for addresses and POIs, find places and save them into favorites, and organize them into collections. This way planning trips will be quite easy. Coupled with weather forecasts, there will not be any unforeseen disasters.

With this release, Nokia is also opening up an API called Ovi Maps Player API to independent developers. The API is supposed to be really easy to use and can be used to embed and integrate Ovi Maps on web pages, by using basic JavaScript. It’s hoped that social networking web sites will leverage this API and Nokia’s location capabilities to come up with some rich social applications that can then be synched with mobile devices. Mashup opportunities include infusing the application with content from newswire services. Releasing the API is probably a move by Nokia to better leverage the acquisition of Navteq, which they bought at a staggering $8 billion.

From a usability point of view, the Nokia application is always regarded as somewhat slower in terms of data delivery and triangulation, than say Google Maps. Hopefully, this new release will fix that.