Nokia acquires geotagging startup Plazes

The phone manufacturer says acquiring the producer of a geo-locating service for finding one's friends, helps accelerate its vision of connecting people under its services strategy.

Plazes is a privately held company based in Berlin. Founded in 2006, it employs 13 and focuses on allowing users to post there location along with a short description of what they are doing, much like Twitter.

Users have the option of either using the company's software for Mac OS or PC to update locations, or sending an SMS with locale information. By the same token, these applications can be used to find the locations of others.

Plazes seems very similar to another location-based social networking service called Loopt. That service also allows people to post their location and activities, as well as see what their friends are up to.

Nokia's acquisition is not its first for location-based services. It acquired Gate5 -- also based in Berlin -- in September 2006, which brought maps and navigation to its portfolio of software. This was followed up with the Navteq buy the following year.

After the acquisition closes, the plan for Plazes is to have it become part of the services and software division of Nokia, and for its technology to be integrated into other features that already exist on Nokia phones.

"Nokia shares our vision of the social activity space and of how we can together develop the service that Plazes provides today," Plazes co-founder Felix Petersen said in a statement.

It also seems like a good fit for Nokia, say analysts, as it gives the company's mapping applications functionality that other device manufacturers may not have. It is not clear whether Nokia would shut down Plazes' efforts to build applications for other devices -- such as it had for the iPhone.

"The company is quite small but its team has a good expertise in adding the elements of 'place' and 'time' to social networking," JupiterResearch analyst Thomas Husson said.

UPDATE As of today, Plazes' service was in closed beta, and the company had been soliciting new testers right up through the Nokia acquisition. It was not immediately clear how the deal would affect the future of its beta tests, though the beta link remains live.

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