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Nokia Strikes Deals With Sina, Tencent To Capitalize On Its Lead In China

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Nokia’s results yesterday showed how important China is to the handset maker. While market share in already-challenging markets like the U.S. dropped yet again, China stands as the single major region where Nokia’s business has grown significantly over the last quarter — a lead that Nokia (NYSE: NOK) also has in apps. Now, Nokia wants to capitalize on that position with some new service partnerships with home-grown brands. It’s signed deals with the Sina (NSDQ: SINA) and Tencent, two of the country’s biggest portals, to integrate Ovi Maps with Sina’s and Tencent’s social media services.

The deal means that Nokia will be getting a foothold early on some of the kinds of mobile check-in and location-based services — like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook’s Places — that have taken off in more mature markets like the U.S. These services are currently in a race to scale in size, with the hopes of becoming lucrative vehicles for mobile advertising and marketing, as well as less commercial mobile content distribution, longer term.

Nokia says that users of Sina’s microblog platform and Tencent’s online community, called QQ, will now be able to share their locations through Ovi Maps, available on Nokia mobile devices. Users will be able to check-in to locations, and add in related content such as recommendations for restaurants, shops and other services.

Nokia has picked two strong companies to partner with on these services, that offer a range of services that could potentially make for a deeper Ovi relationship:

Tencent is the country’s biggest online player by market capitalization, traffic and registered users. Its mainstay is the QQ instant messaging platform, but it also runs a news portal, blogs and a games portal, and makes money out of virtual goods. As of September 30, 2010, Tencent says it had 636.6 million active users of its IM service; peak simultaneous online user accounts has been 118.7 million.

Meanwhile, Sina runs the country’s biggest blogging platform, but within that it also runs many hyper-local and regional information sites, a social networking site, yet more online games, email, search and classifieds as well as enterprise and ecommerce services.

This deal, potentially, will encourage more people to buy Nokia devices if they don’t own one already — that is, until Sina and Tencent ink deals to enable this service on other platforms like Android from Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and iOS from Apple. Nokia says that currently there are 250 million Ovi-enabled handsets in the market today.

The services will start to get rolled out this quarter. Commercial terms of the deal were not disclosed.