During the opening keynote at Nokia World, which kicked off today, CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo was at pains to point out that the handset maker didn’t view Internet “services” as an interesting side business but that it was still the future of the company.
And along with music, messaging and turn-by-turn navigation, location-aware social networking, which the company calls SoLo, and other types of location-based services are key to this future. After all, Nokia has invested heavily in GPS-related technologies and applications, the boldest example being the $8.1 billion purchase of Navteq in late 2007.
What was and still is unclear is how much of Nokia’s SoLo strategy involves building out its own social networking offerings or partnering with and supporting established social networks. With today’s announcement of a tie up with Facebook and with it the death of the company’s own ‘Friend View’, with regards to the simplest of ‘SoLo’ applications — share my current location with friends — the handset maker has seen sense and decided to do the latter.
The new application called Lifecasting with Ovi, which will soon be available for the company’s flagship N97 (see my review) and newly announced N97 Mini (a smaller and slightly cheaper version of the N97), enables users to publish “their location and status updates directly to their Facebook account from the home screen of [there] mobile device.” Photos can also be uploaded as part of a status update and friends who are logged into Facebook are presented with an accompanying Ovi map displaying their buddy’s exact location.
When Google launched a similar location-based social networking app, dubbed Latitude, as part of their Google Maps service, I used it as an opportunity to criticize Nokia’s social networking strategy as a whole and in particular their own rival offering, the now defunct Friend View.
My argument was that if you’re going to launch a mobile social network you need to be platform (handset) agnostic. Google Latitude launched on multiple mobile platforms, while Nokia Friend View was for Nokia handsets (S60) only. As I wrote at the time: “Imagine if Nokia phones could only call other Nokia phones. That’s not dissimilar to how Nokia’s social networking strategy works.”
By embracing Facebook for its SoLo ‘Ovi Lifecasting’ app, not being device agnostic is no longer an issue. Instead, Nokia is leaning more towards being ‘social network’ agnostic. The voice over in the video promo for Ovi Lifecasting aludes to this U-turn with the line “lifecasting is sharing where you are, where we all are”. Where we all are being Facebook.
In the future, of course, Nokia could easily add a Twitter extension to its Ovi Lifecasting app. While, as it stands today, the tie-in with Facebook is also a clever way to get its Ovi Maps service in front of all of those extra millions of users.
In more Facebook love, Nokia also announced today an extension of its Nokia Messaging service (currently push email and IM) called Social Messaging. The plan is to develop a multi-protocol social networking app for Nokia handsets, with Facebook being the first social network to be supported. A beta of the app can be downloaded today for the S60-powered N97 and S40-based feature phone, the 6700 classic.