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Nokia Money shot: Mobile banking service axed

World domination plans crumble under boot of reality

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Nokia is axing its banking service in India, the only place it was ever launched, as the company continues to scale back to focus on selling mobile phones.

Following trials going back to the start of 2010, leading up to a national launch across India late last year, Nokia Money is shutting down in the face of increasing competition from local rivals. The company's new focus on making mobes has seen a load of periphery projects lopped off.

"We are exploring options for a structured exit from the Mobile Financial Services business," says the statement from Nokia, as one can't just pull the plug on a such a service overnight. But the intent is clear: Nokia's dream of providing banking to the unbanked is dead.

That had been the intention of Nokia Money: to provide services to the billions of people around the world who have a mobile phone but not a bank account. The service converted Nokia retailers into cash points, and relied on the company's extensive infrastructure to move cash around cheaply and quickly. Nokia Money can be accessed from the most basic handsets using SMS, or with a smartphone app, but despite all that the service never took off and now it won't get the chance.

Not that such schemes won't succeed; the GSMA reckons there are 130 deployments of similar services around the world - although notably the GSMA's tracking system logs when a service is launched but not when one subsequently fails. With banks and finance houses getting in on the act, Nokia decided it was time to get out.

Nokia has been busy shutting down anything not directly related to making phones. Thankfully the cull hasn't reached Nokia Life Tools, a service providing information and advice to subscribers that has just been rebranded Nokia Life. It now includes lessons in accountancy and social etiquette, not to mention pregnancy and parenting.

Nokia Life is a rare success among the plethora of markets into which the cash-rich Nokia launched itself during the sunshine years. More than 50 million people have used Nokia Life since it started, and most of them have paid for it too as it's not a free service for all its social aims.

Hopefully that revenue will save Nokia Life, as the only other survivor of the cull seems to be Nokia Navigation. Having sunk so much money into Navteq, and signed a deal with Microsoft to provide data for Bing, Nokia now argues that developers will pay for quality information rather than relying on freebies from Google or the OpenStreetMap project. Neither is Nokia going to give in to local advertising, saying that third parties are welcome to pay for the data that way but it's not Nokia's core business.

Which brings us back to the death of Nokia Money - it might have made some dosh eventually, it might even have changed the world, but it had almost nothing to do with mobile telephones and thus no place in the new Nokia. ®

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