Nokia is taking the fight to Google and Apple with the launch a new mapping platform rebranded "Here," which it will make available to iPhone and Android users. The mapping and location platform is a cloud-based, platform-agnostic service that aggregates a variety of location-specific services for the user including maps, directions and local deals.
The new software will be downloadable for free from Apple's App Store in the next few weeks, with tools being released early next year to enable developers to create location apps on Android that would use Here content.
In an effort to compete with the street-level images offered on Google Maps, Nokia said it is acquiring Earthmine, a U.S.-based company that can add 3D visualisations to street images.
Nokia, which invested over €6.2 billion acquiring mapping developer Navteq in 2007, said it has built up used its 20 years of mapping experience to create Nokia Maps and now Here.
"Nokia has a huge advantage because of the years of investment and the work we have done and this announcement is taking things to the next level," Nokia CEO Stephen Elop told the Financial Times in an interview.
"We continue to intend to deliver the best location experiences on Nokia devices," he said, citing features such as City Lens, an augmented reality navigation feature available on its latest Lumia Windows Phone smartphones.
"Nokia is now in head-on competition with Google across the major smartphone platforms," Martin Garner, internet analyst with the CCS Insight research firm, told the FT. "This is a logical extension of its strategy to make Maps a horizontal technology, similar to Google's approach with search."
Elop also revealed that Nokia is looking to gain revenues from licensing mapping data, and that location-oriented advertising would be part of the mix for the Here.com website and the mobile services.
"A bit part of what is new is how we are pushing this horizontally," Elop told Reuters, adding that the new Here branding was partly an effort to make it more acceptable for rivals to use the services.
Commenting on Nokia's move, Gartner analyst Van Baker told Bloomberg that the company had six to 12 months to attract Apple customers to Here before Apple improves its own mapping service. "A lot of people don't trust Apple's maps right now."
"[Here] is Nokia finally realising a vision they've been working on for a long time," said Baker. "They've probably got the best maps on the market, and they're a lot further down the road" in presenting information specific to each user's life.
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