Nokia buys social networking company Plazes

Nokia said today it would buy social networking start-up Plazes - a smaller rival to services like Twitter and Jaiku - as part of the world's top mobile phone maker's push into Internet services. The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter of 2008 subject to regulatory approvals.

Plazes provides a context-aware social-activity service that people can use to plan, record, and share their social activities: why they are at a given location at a given time, whether in the past, present or future. It is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland with a development office in Berlin, Germany.

By acquiring Plazes, Nokia will be able to extend its context-based service offering with social presence and time-based activity planning features. Plazes adds the elements of "place" and "time" to social networking through features that allow people to alert friends of their activity and location, review their own and others' past activities, share their experiences and make plans with friends, who are then able to respond with comments and suggestions as well as their own location information.

"This acquisition helps Nokia to accelerate its vision of bringing people and places closer together, in line with our broader services strategy," said Niklas Savander, Head of Nokia Services & Software, of which the acquired entity will be a part.

"In addition to the key assets, through this acquisition Nokia will bring on a visionary team with an advanced understanding of social-activity services, as well as the technical ability to further develop this area."

"If all goes well, in the near future Plazes will be made available to millions of Nokia customers both online and on millions of mobile devices," Plazes added, referring to Nokia's goal to sell 35 million GPS-enabled phones this year. (See: Nokia to equip 50 per cent of its mobile phones with GPS by 2012)

Plazes also links to services like Twitter which provide instant-messaging tools for Web and mobile phone users to keep track of their friends' daily activities.

"Their key know-how is in the social networking ... We can develop that for our Nokia Maps service," Kari Tuutti, a Nokia spokesman, said. "Our whole strategy is based on creating open links to all popular social networking sites.''

"Nokia shares our vision of the social activity space and of how we can together develop the service that Plazes provides today," said Felix Petersen, co-founder of Plazes. "We feel proud of what the Plazes team has achieved so far with its pioneering work in context-aware services and we feel even more excited about what's to come next."

To achieve new growth as the mobile phone business is set to mature in coming years Nokia started to invest heavily in building up its presence in Internet services.

It has offered $8.1 billion for digital maps firm Navteq and promised millions of dollars of investments in this field. (See: Nokia to buy navigation software maker Navteq for $8.1 billion)