November 14, 2012
Nokia Introduces Location Cloud Mapping App And Buys Earthmine
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
2012 may be remembered as the Year of the Maps. This past year has been particularly filled with talk about maps, map applications, mapping data and who is using whose maps. Nokia has now continued this geographical narrative, announcing a sparkling new brand for their maps, offering it freely to the millions of Apple users and buying a 3D mapping company to augment said brand.
During a press event yesterday in San Francisco, Nokia introduced “HERE,” what they´re calling the first “location cloud” meant to bring their mapping app and data to a multitude of platforms. “People want great maps, and with HERE we can bring together Nokia's location offering to deliver people a better way to explore, discover and share their world," said CEO and president Stephen Elop in a press statement.
"Additionally, with HERE we can extend our 20 years of location expertise to new devices and operating systems that reach beyond Nokia. As a result, we believe that more people benefit from and contribute to our leading mapping and location service."
The most notable of these “new devices” are the stable of Apple products, such as the iPad, iPod Touch and the iPhone 5.
Older iPhones, such as the 4 and 4S are able to run iOS 5, the last iteration of Apple´s mobile software which still depends on Google´s mapping data. Apple famously kicked Google out of 1 Infinite Loop earlier this year and began to build a new Maps app with their own data (and with the help of TomTom, Waze and others). This new Maps app shipped with iOS 6 and caused quite a stir. Memes were created and Tim Cook publicly apologized for the atrocity, recommending other mapping apps for customers to use while Apple sorts the whole thing out.
It´s likely Nokia hopes this recent shakeup in the smartphone mapping world will leave many disassociated with any one brand and willing to try out anything new. Nokia has also said they´ll be releasing an SDK for Android programmers to make use of their data, and they´re also working with Mozilla to build out new features for their new mobile operating system, Firefox OS.
Nokia also announced they have plans to buy Earthmine, a California-based 3D mapping firm to help beef up these options going forward. Nokia didn´t disclose any financial information, but did mention that they hope to have the deal closed by the end of the year.
"Maps are hard to get right - but location is revolutionizing how we use technology to engage with the real world," explained Michael Halbherr, Here´s executive Vice President in the press statement.
“That's why we have been investing and will continue to invest in building the world's most powerful location offering."
While Nokia is clearly very excited about their new venture into the wide world of mapping, they´re still a hardware maker at heart. Their new Lumia has been released to fair-to-middling reviews and the same sort of sales figures. Elop told the New York Times that Nokia will continue to focus on phones like the Lumia, giving them exclusive apps and features, but use the “cloud” element of Here to let their competitors do much of the work for them.
“For the location platform to be at the highest quality, one needs scale, and you need as many different people contributing as possible,” said Elop.
“Of course, Nokia will build apps, some of them unique to Lumia devices, that gain a competitive advantage for Nokia.”
It´s not a bad idea: The fall-behind contender in the smartphone wars using their competitors to improve their product. But will users eventually switch to Nokia and Windows Phone for the maps, or will they one day have quite the brand to offload onto an interested company?