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Nokia Here pushes maps to Android and iOS

Cloud-based platform builds on success with Navteq, but aims for far more complex mapping, aided by Earthmine purchase


Published: 13 November, 2012


Nokia's mapping activities have moved to the center of its strategy as other businesses have declined, almost justifying its huge $8.1bn purchase of Navteq. It has signed a string of licensees for its Maps platform, both in the smartphone world and among carmakers and embedded players. Now it is pushing its location plans further with the introduction of a cloud-based platform called Here, which will reach out to iOS users stranded by Apple's second-rate launch of its own mapping service.

Nokia also announced that it had acquired Earthmine, a specialist in 3D mapping technology - a key feature of recent enhancements to Google Maps and Apple's offering. Speaking at the launch event, CEO Stephen Elop said: "Maps and location experiences should inspire us to sense our world", claiming that Nokia's next generation system would create "more personal maps that change how we navigate our lives", by using greater "quality and quantity" of data than ever before.

He promised Nokia Here would be "the best location platform in the industry" for almost any device, and would "transform mapping in ways we haven't even thought possible yet". By targeting most mobile products and operating systems, Nokia is cutting the cord between its mapping system and its own phones, or Microsoft's WP8. This shows it is recognizing that the Navteq unit has potential well beyond its own platform, and that it can even generate valuable revenues in the transition period while it waits for Windows Phone to take off.

The HTML5 browser-based mobile platforms which are starting to emerge could become challengers, in time, for Windows Phone and the other native OSs, but that is not putting Nokia off forming new partnerships to boost its crown jewel. It announced a location focused alliance with Mozilla - soon to release its own cloud-oriented mobile OS - based around HTML5.

"We want to give everyone with any type of device the ability to use this" Elop added. So Nokia will roll out a software developers' kit for Android during the first quarter of next year, while Here Maps for iOS will make its debut within a few weeks.

Nokia Here will integrate conventional Navteq data, as well as many other data sources and methods, plus information contributed to the cloud-based system by its users. Michael Halbherr, head of the firm's location and commerce unit, said: "We need to translate usage into better services so that more people are using Here. We need to deal with millions and millions of updates." Perhaps in a swipe at Apple and its now notorious mapping errors, he added: "If my daily life depends on it, what is on a map has to be accurate."

As for the Earthmine deal, both firms' photographic capture and modeling solutions will be integrated into one process, with the main focus on urban modelling, or computational cartography, which can "compute the city -- not just visualize it". Halbherr stressed the scalability of a cloud platform, saying that the new system would actually feature "millions of maps" layered on one another for on-demand computation and information based on the particular requirements of the user. And with much of the processing done on the server, the service is suited to low profile devices and data connections as well as smartphones and tablets.

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