Goodbye Ovi Services, Hello Nokia Services

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Nokia announced today that it will change its service branding from Ovi to Nokia. This will see the services change from Ovi Service to Nokia Service. For example, Ovi Maps to Nokia Maps. The transition will begin in July and is expected to be completed by the end of 2012 and Nokia says that the rebrand will have no impact on planned updates and improvements to the services. 

The rebrand will effect application and service names (Ovi Contacts (sync), Ovi Music, Ovi Store, Ovi MapsOvi Mail, Ovi Suite) as well as related print materials, marketing and other activities. The switch to the Nokia branding scheme should be apparent with newly purchased devices by the end of the year; older devices will also see on-board services rebranded through future software updates.

While the Ovi brand has become familiar to many Nokia consumers, it does not have the same level of recognition or consumer trust as the main Nokia brand. 

The change comes ahead of the move to Windows Phone as Nokia's primary smartphone platform. With the combination of Nokia and Microsoft's brands, the continuation of Ovi was always going to be called into question. While some of the structural breakdown of the respective companies' roles have been explained, the details of how service branding will break down have not been released by Nokia or Microsoft. For example Nokia, with its NAVTEQ division, is taking the lead in location, mapping and navigation services, but it is unclear how this will be branded for consumers (Bing Maps or Nokia Maps).

The rebrand will also affect the remaining Symbian devices and future Nokia mobile phone devices (Series 40). On these devices we are likely to see predominantly Nokia branded services (Maps, Store, Sync), with Bing making an appearance as the default search provider.

Jerri DeVard, Nokia’s EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, said:

"We have made the decision to change our service branding from Ovi to Nokia. By centralizing our services identity under one brand, not two, we will reinforce the powerful master brand of Nokia and unify our brand architecture – while continuing to deliver compelling opportunities and experiences for partners and consumers alike.

The reasons for this decision includes the fact that Nokia is a well-known and highly-loved brand the world over. Our mobile experiences are tightly integrated with our devices – there is no longer a differentiation. For example, if consumers want the best mobile navigation experience, they know it’s a Nokia that they can rely on. These last few years, and moving forward, our mission remains unchanged: we will continue our work to deliver compelling, unified mobile service offerings and next-generation, disruptive technologies."

Nokia Conversations notes:

This is solely a name-changing exercise and the service roadmaps will continue exactly as planned. The only difference consumers can expect to see is the replacement of the word Ovi with Nokia, not only on their device software but also in other places such as printed material or online media and advertisements. The transition should be a smooth and seamless one.

Ovi brand

The Ovi brand was originally unveiled at Nokia's Go Play event on August 29th 2007, as such it will be retired just short of its fourth bithday. The Go Play event also saw the launch of Nokia's music service, the relaunch of N-Gage, the launch of Nokia Music services and the launch of the N95 8GB. The separate branding was a statement of intent by Nokia as to the seriousness with which it wanted to move to services. The standard line from executives was that Nokia wanted to "become an Internet company". 

At the time, when talking about the potential for Ovi and Nokia's performance in the service arena, we noted:

The outcome, in terms of which companies act as the key gateways, is less certain. With its dominant position in the smart mobile device market, Nokia is well positioned to be a major player, but much will depend on how well the vision of Ovi is fulfilled. Get it right and there is a whole new business for Nokia to grow into, get it wrong and there is the risk of becoming a commoditised hardware manufacturer.

Poor execution has been a major issue for Nokia over the last few years and some of the most glaring examples come from the Ovi services portfolio. 

However, a wider trend has also become more apparent over the last four years - consumers are unwilling to be tied into a particular service portfolio. It's far more common to use services from a variety of companies. Apps through app stores, maps through NAVTEQ (Nokia), social networking from Facebook, search from Google, games direct from developers, video sharing through YouTube, VoIP through Skype, and so on. The complete user experience on a modern smartphone commonly comprises services and applications from many different companies, a trend which will accelerate as the complexity and capabilities of the devices increase.

Maintaining the Ovi brand separately from the Nokia brand makes little sense in such circumstances. There is no consumer desire for a set of services running under the Ovi umbrella, but there remains a very strong demand for services, both from Nokia and third parties, running on a Nokia device. 

Navigating this open ocean of services and applications (mobile ecosystem), has become the key challenge for all mobile device manufacturers and service providers. The difficulty for any one company to deliver a complete user experience is one of the keys to understanding the long term thinking behind the tie up between Microsoft and Nokia.

Rafe Blandford