Explaining Nokia’s acquisition of Oz

Nokia’s acquisition of Oz, best known for its consumer messaging platform, is a smart move. I have been following Oz for some years now and it offers one of the most user-friendly ways to access a wide range of email, instant messaging and social networking services across the full spectrum of mobile devices.

Anyone who has tried Nokia’s consumer email beta or chat service will know why this purchase is important for the company. Despite admirable efforts by the Finnish manufacturer to provide these type of applications for free, the user experience is currently very poor.

Oz, based in Montreal, has been dedicated to delivering a specific end user experience from the outset. Starting with instant messaging, Oz developed a client interface which allowed users to simply enter their login details and get started straight away. It worked across most of the major IM platforms and gave users simple access to a familiar messaging environment.

This might not sound particularly revolutionary, but Oz were doing this way before anyone else had managed to get their heads around what instant messaging really meant to the end customer. While other companies were still bogged down in debates about standards and protocols, Oz just went out there and found a way to develop software clients and back-end infrastructure which worked for customers.

As a result, it signed partnership with a wide range of leading operators to market the service and now has about 5.5m customers paying monthly subscriptions.

It followed up on the success of its instant messaging platform by extending a similar experience to email. Again, the focus was on simplicity for the user – just enter your login details and you get immediate access to Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and a wide range of other popular email services.

Oz is now extending this approach to social networking services and has the potential to develop into an extremely user-friendly interface for accessing the full spectrum of messaging services.

Nokia will be able to leverage Oz’s UI expertise to make significant improvements to its consumer email, messaging and social networking applications. This will help the company’s wider strategy of packaging a broad range of pre-installed, free services on its consumer handsets.

Looking out to the long-term picture, Oz’s technology could provide the underpinnings for a properly integrated messaging experience on Nokia devices. Currently these kind of services are seen as distinct applications in themselves – however, I believe they will evolve over time to become an integral part of a much wider platform.

A user browsing through the latest music tracks on Nokia’s storefront should be able to seamlessly initiate a messaging session with a friend and share a sample of a track they’re listening to. Users of Nokia Maps should be able to easily send their current location to a selected group of friends from their social networking account.

This is the long-term vision Nokia is playing for with the continuing development of its services business.

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