Nokia announced today it would soon discontinue the use of the “Ovi” brand, the name it has used for its services offerings since 2007. The Ovi brand encompasses Ovi Maps, Ovi Mail, the Ovi Store, and more, all of which will now be rebranded as “Nokia” services. The decision, according to Nokia EVP and Chief Marketing Officer Jerri DeVard, will allow the company to centralize its services identity under one brand, not two.

However, DeVard assures us, all service roadmaps will continue as planned.

Ovi to Nokia Transition Begins in July

The transition from Ovi branding to Nokia will begin in July 2011, and will be completed across all countries and service by the end of 2012. Anyone buying a new smartphone or mobile phone this year or later will see the new branding on the services included with the device. Those already owning Nokia phones will see the rebranding through software updates instead.

According to DeVard, “the reasons for this decision includes the fact that Nokia is a well-known and highly-loved brand the world over.”

“Our mobile experiences are tightly integrated with our devices – there is no longer a differentiation,” she said. “For example, if consumers want the best mobile navigation experience, they know it’s a Nokia that they can rely on. These last few years, and moving forward, our mission remains unchanged: we will continue our work to deliver compelling, unified mobile service offerings and next-generation, disruptive technologies.”

This name change makes sense for the company, which is poised to launch its first devices based on Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system in the months ahead. These devices are expected in late 2011 at the earliest, or at least by Q1 2012, the company has promised. With Windows Phone as Nokia’s new flagship OS, it could have confused consumers to see “Ovi” services on those devices, as the brand is not as well-known as “Nokia” or “Bing, for that matter.”

Will Nokia’s Windows Phone Devices Offer “Nokia”-Branded Maps?

What’s less clear is how the rebranding will be presented to end users of these new Nokia-built Windows Phone devices. On a post over the weekend on Search Engine Land, writer Greg Sterling said he was “shocked” to discover that Nokia Maps would become the back end for Bing Maps. This is not new information, of course – Nokia and Microsoft have both said since day one of their partnership that Nokia Maps would become the new core mapping service for Windows Phone devices in this new collaboration between the two companies.

The Microsoft-watching blog LiveSide added their thoughts about the Search Engine Land blog post, in a post titled “A Nokia Powered Bing Maps…shocking? Not so Much”. There, blogger Kip Kniskern noted that Nokia provides “much of the core content for Bing Maps” already. This is due to the Nokia-owned subsidiary, Naveteq, a provider of GIS (geographic information systems) data and electronic maps. Over the years, Navteq has provided content for Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MapQuest, Garmin and Magellan GPS devices and more, and has continued to do so, even after Nokia’s acquisition of the company in October 2007.

However, says LiveSide, just because Nokia will now be the core mapping service in Bing Maps, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Microsoft’s mapping innovations, like Bird’s Eye view, Street Side view and PhotoSynth, would disappear.

But will “Maps” on Windows Phone be branded as “Nokia Maps” or “Bing Maps,” or just “Maps?” Will end users realize a back-end change has occurred? This is where details become more vague. But as LiveSide notes, most consumers won’t care as long as everything works as advertised.

sarah perez