Nokia’s new open direction – ‘HERE’ map apps for all smartphones (video)

14 Nov 2012

Finnish phone giant Nokia has embarked on a new direction, taking its prowess at mapping and bringing it to the iOS and Android ecosystems. It has also forged a new partnership with Mozilla and has revealed plans to acquire 3D capture company Earthmine.

The move shows there’s still some fight in Nokia and could be seen as a daring attempt to win back customers from rivals like Apple and Google.

The revamp of its mapping assets, including the acquisition of Earthmine and the making available of its mapping tools to Android developers, is the opening barrage of a strategy focused on returning Nokia to profitability and retrieving its reputation as a smartphone innovator.

Nokia explained the acquisition of the California-based Earthmine will see its reality capture and processing technologies become an integral part of HERE’s 3D map-making capabilities. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of this year.

“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 Nokia president and CEO Stephen Elop.

“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.”


From here to there and everywhere

Based on HTML5, the iOS maps app from Nokia will include offline capabilities, voice-guided walk navigation, and public transport directions. The application is scheduled to be available for free download from Apple’s App Store in the coming weeks.

Nokia further announced a strategic partnership with Mozilla to bring new location experiences to the Firefox OS. Nokia plans to debut a mobile web version of HERE Maps for the new Firefox OS next year. The companies are working together to give people the best mapping experience on Firefox OS.

“Mozilla is a leader in HTML5, building the web as a platform for developing compelling applications, and location is a key part of that platform,” said Jay Sullivan, Mozilla vice-president of Products. “We are excited to work with Nokia as the combination of Firefox OS and HERE’s location platform provides rich possibilities for mobile application developers to create amazing experiences for users.”

Nokia also demonstrated an Android OS-based reference application and announced plans for the availability of a HERE SDK for Android OEMs in early 2013. This is aimed at enabling partners to create location-based applications for Android devices with Nokia’s leading content.

“Today’s announcement means that we’re bringing HERE to all devices and operating systems to give more people, with any type of device, the ability to use the best location platform in the world,” Nokia’s Pino Bonetti wrote in the Nokia Conversations blog.

“This openness is what sets HERE apart from other digital maps in the world. And with HERE, location will set Nokia apart,” Bonetti wrote.

Nokia’s mapping technology will include voice directions for turn-by-turn navigation and is optimised for urban use – on iOS the voice navigation works only for journeys on foot.

But there’s still something there for drivers, too – driving directions for 500 cities.

“With live traffic information and incident notices, you know where the traffic is, so you can spend less time driving there and more time being there,” Bonetti explained.


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years