Mobile Mapping: Nokia Prepares For The Afterlife

At the recently concluded Tizen developer conference in South Korea, Nokia announced that it has licensed its maps and related functionality to the Tizen ecosystem. While no phone or tablet running the Tizen OS has yet launched, device manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, and Fujitsu are backing it.

Mobile handset manufacturer Jolla, whose first phone ships on November 27, also announced that it has licensed HERE’s positioning services and map technology for its Sailfish OS. We expect more handset manufacturers to build devices for Tizen and Sailfish over the next 12 to 18 months, as both are open source and can run Android apps.

In my opinion, two key factors make Nokia HERE maps a tough competitor for Google and Apple:

  • Device and OS independence. By far the biggest value proposition of HERE maps is that they’re not restricted to any particular hardware — unlike Apple’s mapping service. Similarly, HERE’s success is not tied to the success of any one platform — unlike Google Maps, which is primarily flourishing due to the growth of Android devices. The hardware- and platform-agnostic nature of HERE maps will be attractive to businesses that want a mapping service but don’t want Android or iOS lock-in. This also makes HERE a more attractive proposition for vertical solutions like maps for in-car navigation systems or asset tracking; in fact, it already has mapping partnerships with automakers like Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, and Hyundai.
  • Strong cash reserves to support mapping growth. The imminent sale of its devices and services business to Microsoft will leave Nokia with two primary assets: Nokia Solutions Networks and HERE maps. The $7.4 billion it will receive from Microsoft will give Nokia much-needed resources to improve its mapping capabilities, either by acquiring smaller specialist mapping companies like Earthmine or by expanding existing features like live traffic and voice-guided navigation to more countries.

Samsung, which is trying to reduce its overreliance on Android, is looking to migrate (albeit partially) to Tizen. As the biggest manufacturer of Android handsets, Samsung’s move will definitely dent the growth of Google Maps and play in favor of HERE. And because both Tizen and Sailfish can run Android apps, we expect significant uptake of these OSes, especially in Android-dominated markets like China and India — helping HERE expand its mobile mapping subscriber base.

But it’s still early days for both OSes — so Nokia must continue to work hand in glove with Microsoft to further the adoption of HERE on the Windows Phone platform. Nokia should also develop value-added apps similar to StoryTeller that leverage its mapping capabilities and connect with users on an emotional level. It’s crucial for Nokia to make these apps available to all of its partner manufacturers — unlike StoryTeller, which is tied to the Windows Phone platform.

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