Update: The original San Francisco Chronicle report has been pulled but Google cache caught a bit more saying that Nokia's navigation service is "capable of operating completely offline" unlike Google Navigation which requires data connectivity.
Update 2: Nokia just made the download link live. Hey, where's the N97 and N900 love?
Update 3: And it's official. Starting today, Ovi Maps walk and drive navigation is free across the globe. Drivers receive turn-by-turn voice guidance including lane assistance, traffic information (in 10 countries including the US), and safety camera and speed warnings while pedestrians will be guided on shortcuts through parks and pedestrian-only zones in over 100 cities across the globe. It all works offline too, which should extend battery life and keep that navigation humming even while puttering about in data dead zones without racking up international roaming charges (take that, Google). From March 2010, all new Nokia GPS-enabled smartphones will come installed with the new Ovi Maps application and pre-loaded with local country map data and walk and drive navigation with access to location-aware Lonely Planet and Michelin travel guides at no extra cost. Additional premium guides like a weather service and events / movies are also included. Just 10 devices from Nokia's massive catalog are available today -- a list that includes the N97 Mini, 5800 XpressMusic, 5800 navigation edition, E52, E55, E72, 5230, 6710 navigator, 6730 classic and X6.
So what's missing? The N97 and N900 of course. Find out why after the break.%Gallery-83601%
In a call with Michael Halbherr, Nokia's VP of Social Location, we were told that the new Ovi Maps would arrive on the flagship N97 very shortly. It's currently a "software logistics issue" related to the maturity of the N97 device. N900 owners shouldn't hold their breath, though, as Nokia is focusing on bringing its free navigation service to the next generation of Maemo devices. That's not to say that the N900 won't get it eventually, only that it's not currently on the roadmap.
Update: A support note from Nokia was just issued saying that the new Ovi Maps will be released for the N97 on January 28th. [Thanks, Philip, B]
Nokia also gave us some insight into the financials of today's move. Instead of nickel-and-diming its users for individual services, Nokia is taking a "solution pricing" approach that is more attractive to potential customers. In other words, by making the platform more tempting through a robust feature set, Nokia will sell more high-margin smartphones and thus boost the bottom line. A move that certainly makes sense to us. Hey Nokia, high-fives all around! Now check the video for a peek of Ovi Maps in action.