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Nokia switches direction and gives away maps

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Nokia has started giving away Ovi Maps including turn-by-turn directions, removing one more source of income in the ongoing battle to out-freebie Google.

Ovi Maps runs on Nokia's Symbian-based handsets, and synchronises with the online version for when you want to use a bigger screen. Until this morning, lost punters could have expected to pay for the software and regional maps, but now it's being given away. It includes maps for 180 countries and spoken turn-by-turn directions for 74 of them - in 46 different languages.

"Why have multiple devices that work in only one country or region? Put it all together, make it free, make it global and you almost double the potential size of the mobile navigation market", says the canned quote from Nokia's Executive Vice President. The more cynical might point out that there's little point in doubling one's market if one reduces the revenue generated by that market to zero, but that's nit picking.

If Google reckons it can hand out free directional mapping, making money from contextual advertising, then Nokia reckons it can too, and Nokia is prepared to put its product on the line to prove it.

Regardless of whether Nokia manages to turn a profit, the real losers will be Tom Tom and its ilk, who are going to find it increasingly hard to differentiate their offerings and get customers to pay for them.

Those of us who don't want to pay for directions will appreciate having more options, as each one further reduces the chances of having to interact with local people. ®

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