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Nokia Looks to Draw App Developers

Nokia today issued a new set of APIs and an SDK aimed at spurring application development for its smartphones and devices as it embarks on a strategy to transform itself from a hardware maker into a full-fledged mobile services provider.

The company today at its annual Nokia World conference in Germany showcased the Ovi SDK beta that programmers can use to develop Web-based services and create apps for the firm's open source Symbian and Maemo platforms.

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) says the SDK can be used by anyone with HTML, CSS and JavaScript coding skills and that now creating apps to run on all its devices is much easier than it was before.

The world's largest phone maker will also start rolling out mobile APIs, beginning with the Ovi Maps Player API and the Ovi Navigation Player API, that will allow developers to integrate location-based services in their applications.

"This is just the beginning. We will work in close cooperation with developers to evolve the offering, starting with social location solutions," Niklas Savander, executive vice president of services for Nokia, said in a keynote speech. "Our goal is clear, and that is to make it effortless for our partners to create highly appealing, context-relevant applications that consumers will find indispensable."

Applications created with Ovi SDK and Ovi APIs will be distributed through the Ovi Store in 2010. Currently, many U.S.-based developers are using the Ovi Store as means to reach international markets, Savander said on a conference call with the press.

Meanwhile, Nokia has already been working with partners such as Lonely Planet, Associated Press and National Geographic to create apps using the Ovi SDK Beta and Ovi APIs and is collaborating with Facebook on mobile social networking opportunities.

"We've been very pleased with our relationship with Nokia," Henri Moissinac, director of mobile for Facebook, said during the conference. "Since its release in June, the Facebook application for Nokia is available for download in more than 150 countries and is currently one of the most distributed applications in the Ovi Store. Needless to say, it's really exciting to be working so closely with the largest handset manufacturer in the world to bring our 250 million users worldwide an innovative Facebook experience on their mobile devices -- and this is just the beginning."

Also unveiled today at the conference are plans to roll out a mobile payment service, dubbed Nokia Money, in 2010. It will enable consumers to send money to another person by using the person's mobile phone number, as well as to pay merchants for goods and services.

Nokia recently made some bold moves to shore up its position in the competitive wireless sector as it undergoes a transformation from phone maker to what Kai Oistamo, vice president of devices for Nokia, called a "mobile solutions provider."

Most recently, Nokia introduced several new products including the Nokia Booklet 3G netbook, the N900, a wireless device running on Maemo 5, and a new series of music smartphones. Nokia also recently launched a revamped version of its Ovi app store.

Also, Nokia will begin selling carrier-subsidized handsets in the U.S. -- a reversal of its former approach of selling directly to consumers at much higher prices.

In August, the company also partnered with Microsoft in a deal that will begin by porting Office Mobile applications to run on Symbian.