Nokia’s ‘Here’ Maps Will Power Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon

Nokia, the flagging mobile phone manufacturer from Finland, is revealing more about its new mapping service, ‘Here,’ a cloud-based free digital world map revealed Tuesday that will compete with Google Maps and Apple Maps across all types of devices, including some smartphones that haven’t been released yet. Here is already available as a browser-based version and a mobile website.

A Nokia spokesperson confirmed to TPM that Nokia Here will be the official rebranding of Nokia Maps, which has been available under that brand name since 2007. Nokia Here includes new features, though, such as a map editor, additional 3D imagery of major metropolitan areas, and “Collections,” a way for users to store lists of their favorite places.

“Only the name Nokia Maps will be discontinued but not the application and definitively not our commitment to delight consumers with great location-based apps,” Reija Sihlman, Nokia spokesperson, told TPM. “Now we have a name intrinsically connected to location to define our offering.”

More importantly, Nokia, which powers Microsoft’s Bing Maps and, by extension, Facebook’s Places Maps, will continue to do so under the Here brand. As such, Nokia Here is already set to power two of the most successful tech companies in the world.

“We are powering Bing Maps (therefore Facebook) with our platform, this won’t change with the rebranding,” Sihlman told TPM.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Nokia is going for sheer breadth when it comes to where it wants people to have access to its maps, including aligning itself with the as-yet unreleased Mozilla Firefox OS, a mobile operating system from the makers of the Firefox Web browser that is set to debut in Brazil in 2013.

Earlier in September, Nokia confirmed that it was also powering Amazon’s new maps platform for its mobile devices including the Kindle Fire line.

In its press release for Here on Wednesday, Nokia also revealed that it would be releasing an iPhone version and an Android app and software development kit (SDK) to allow developers outside the company to create other Android apps that relied on Nokia’s Here maps, or as Nokia put it, the Here SDK will enable “partners to create location-based applications for Android devices.”

Sihlman said that the Here SDK for Android would be available online at Nokia’s current Nokia Maps API website in the coming days.

Further, Sihlman said that Nokia will push to license its map data out to other developers and partner companies to raise money for the struggling phonemaker, which has seen its overall market share in mobile handsets drop as customers flock to Android phones and Apple’s iPhone.

“Revenue can be generated in variety of areas: licensing content, licensing platform, revenue per apps or through advertising,” Sihlman told TPM.

But Nokia’s Maps business has taken a hit lately too: The company reported in its October earnings statement that sales in its “Location & Commerce” division, which includes maps, declined six percent from last year. Nokia said this was due to a drop in sales of its own GPS device, the Nokia 330, but that it was “offset by higher sales of map content licenses.”

It’s unclear whether or not Nokia will charge for heavy usage of its maps (between $0.50 and $1.00 for every 1,000 map loads after the initial 25,000 map loads) as Google Maps began to do in early 2012, which companies have openly admitted led them to consider alternatives like the free, crowdsourced OpenStreetMap.

One asset Nokia has on Google Maps, Apple Maps and OpenStreetMap, and one it is quick to brag about, is the sheer volume of the map data its accumulated through acquisitions, including one new purchase announced Tuesday, of 3D mapping company Earthmine, of Berkeley, California. Nokia is widely viewed as having vaulted into a map leader due its acquisition in 2007 of a Chicago geographic information services (GIS) company called Navteq.

“We are basically the world’s largest maps company,” Sihlman said. “We have built our reputation during the last years also by acquiring companies like NAVTEQ and others. Since last Tuesday we have a name to celebrate our position in the industry…HERE relies on more than 80,000 data sources.”

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