Nokia Corp will join forces with Sina Corp and Tencent Holdings Ltd to launch location-based services through its Ovi Maps application during the first quarter of this year.
The partnership is a major step in cementing Nokia’s dominant position in China’s online-mapping market, the company said on Friday.
The move comes after Nokia Alliance Internet Services Company Limited – a joint venture between Nokia and Shanghai Alliance Investment Limited – obtained a map-searching and location license from the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping last year. The license allows Nokia to continue offering mapping services in China.
The cooperation will boost the popularity of Nokia’s Ovi Maps in China and provide new business opportunities for the Finnish company in the mobile Internet era, according to officials.
The service is designed only for Nokia handsets with Ovi maps installed. Both Sina’s and Tencent’s services will be integrated with the application, Nokia said in a statement. With a single login, users of Sina’s micro blog and Tencent’s QQ online community will be able to share their locations through Nokia’s mobile devices and check in to a location.
Users will also be able to upload location-based content, such as recommendations and comments on restaurants, shops and movie theatres.
The first location-based services for Sina and Tencent customers through Ovi Maps are expected to be available during the first quarter of the year.
Nokia has more than 250 million mobile phone customers in China. Most of its handsets, and all of its smartphones, are sold with Ovi Maps already installed, according to An Jun, chairman of Nokia Alliance Internet Services Company Limited.
“We have wanted do business with local partners for along time, especially the big names, because we know that foreign companies usually move more slowly and are less adept than local companies,” An told China Daily.
“Nokia is a traditional cell phone manufacturer, but we look forward to developing opportunities in the mobile Internet era, especially in the online-mapping field,” he added.
China’s online-mapping market is in the development stage, but many companies in the telecom and software industries are interested in the field and have started to offer services, which has intensified competition, An said.
The number of Sina micro blog users totaled more than 50 million in the latter part of 2010. The active number of user accounts for QQ Instant Messenger amounted to 637 million, while its simultaneous online user accounts peaked at 119 million by September.
Phil Kemp, vice-president of Nokia (China) Investment Co, said in a statement that the collaboration with Sina and Tencent marks a significant milestone in bringing together mobile Internet and location-based services in China.
Nokia’s 2010 annual report, released on Thursday, stated that the company’s share of the global mobile phone market shrank by 4 percent, from 35 percent a year ago to around 31 percent in the fourth quarter.
Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop said in a conference call that consumers were choosing smartphones not just because of the hardware, but also the software and services, and that Nokia needed to raise the bar, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.