Ovi Maps Player - showing 3D mode with building models
Ovi Maps and AP News mash-up. More in this YouTube video.
A key component of Ovi Maps is its vector based mapping and 3D mode, which includes the ability to rotate and alter the perspective of the map. It's also possible to 'fly' around the map from one location to another using transitions. These functions, which significantly improve map viewing capabilities are similar to those found in Google Earth and other application-based geo-viewers.
However, in the case of Ovi Maps, is accessible from within the browser. However this functionality does not come without a cost - you are required to install a browser plug-in (available for Firefox 3+, Safari and IE 7 on Mac or PC), which does act as a barrier to entry. Clearly if Nokia is able to drive widespread uptake of Ovi Maps, then the plug-in will become popular (e.g. like Flash). Indeed, potentially, Ovi Maps could act as a significant promotional tool for Ovi outside of Nokia's existing customer base.
Update: Nokia have recently added a Java powered version of Ovi Maps, to which the maps.ovi.com website defaults to if you have not installed the Ovi Maps plug-in. During our testing this only worked with Firefox 3. In the Java version 3D mode and the associated 3D buildings were not available, which suggest a plug-in will still be required for the full Ovi Maps experience.
During the Where 2.0 conference Nokia also too the opportunity to promote Nokia Maps 3.0 for mobile (a.k.a. Ovi Maps for Nokia phones) and Ovi Maps, both of which are still in beta. However, considering the previous six-monthly release schedules, we should see Nokia Maps 3 become a release product soon (or at least a release candidate update from the February beta).
Nokia Maps 3: 3D buildings, traffic mode and walking mode.
Ovi Maps Player API, Maps 3 and Ovi Maps are three parts of the same system; effectively they are three entry points into Nokia's social location ecosystem. Consumers will be able to access their saved locations (personal data), as well as public data, regardless of the entry point that they are using. The cross platform nature of Ovi Maps is already apparent in the sync capabilities of Nokia Maps 3, but this is now being extended to third parties.
Developers can register to be part of the Ovi Maps Player API beta program here.
Ovi Maps Player API being used to embed Ovi Maps into the Lonely Planet website.
Ovi Maps Player API will be facing off against the poster-boy of the Web 2.0 mash-up world - Google Maps. Google Maps has set a very high standard for Nokia to meet and is continually innovating. For example, yesterday, it released details of its new Google Maps Data API, which can be used to store and share geo-data (the data added to Google Maps which makes a mash up). Nokia will point to its vector based mapping, and 3D view (get 'in' the map) as significant advantages over Google's current offering.
In its introductory video Nokia gave the example of Lonely Planet, which uses mapping on its website to help give a 'sense of place'. Currently Lonely Planet is using Google Maps, but the demo shows the same functionality being provided by Ovi Maps. The advantage is that an Ovi Map can be used in 3D and rotated, allowing a fuller appreciation of 'sense of place'.
Going forward this is likely to be a very competitive area because it is an on the key enablers for linking the 'virtual' and 'physical' worlds. Each company will look to leverage their own advantages: Google has a strong incumbent position (web), is cross platform, has search expertise and has made very significant investments in structured geo-data. Nokia has a dominant position in mobile devices (it's the world's largest manufacturers of GPS devices), and recently acquired bought Navteq the leading provider of digital maps and data.
Here's an extract from the press release:
"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 website. 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", says Michael Halbherr, vice president, Social Location services at Nokia.
Here are two YouTube video giving some more details on Ovi Maps Player API: