Nokia Enters Google Territory, Opens Up Mapping API

The Ovi Maps API enables developers to integrate 3-D maps into Web sites and apps using only JavaScript.
Nokia, looking to bolster the ecosystem around its mapping programs, launched Wednesday a way for Web sites and developers to integrate its Ovi Maps with a few lines of code.

The mobile phone manufacturer has been building out its mapping services over the last few years and spent more than $8 billion acquiring Navteq to help achieve that goal. The latest version of the Ovi Maps application enables mobile and Web surfers to view a variety of locations in 2-D and 3-D, along with animations such as flyovers and fly-throughs.

Nokia opened up Ovi Maps to third-party developers Wednesday with the launch of the Ovi Maps Player application programming interface. This enables content creators to integrate the fully functional 3-D maps into Web sites and apps using only JavaScript. Web sites that use Ovi Maps can also have users' content synchronized with compatible mobile phones.

"The Ovi Maps Player API offers an open and easy-to-use map browser based on simple Web technologies that can be embedded into any Web site," Michael Halbherr, VP of Nokia's social location services, said in a statement. "This is the first step toward an ecosystem where developers can access Nokia's unique contextual assets, such as location, to create mobile applications that will redefine how we use our mobile devices."

Nokia said it will continue to improve the service by adding new capabilities such as social networking integration, weather, and multimodal directions. The API is already being used by partners such as Lonely Planet and The Associated Press. Interested developers may apply now at Forum Nokia.

Opening up its Ovi API puts the cell phone manufacturer in direct competition with Google for developers, as many Web sites and app creators are drawn to Google Maps for to its free service, Street View, and other features.

Nokia said its option should be more attractive because it's simpler to code for and it can access the cloud to push data to and from mobile phones. With Nokia's large global market share of cell phones, apps for Ovi Maps have a solid base and good chance of reaching a large audience.

Google will likely continue to improve its mapping services with new features, as well as integrate it into more mobile phones. It's the default map of popular handsets such as Apple's iPhone, and it will likely have a prominent role in the plethora of Android handsets expected to be launched this year.

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