Nokia (NOK) announced Tuesday that it is rebranding its Maps service, calling it Here and adding a number of key features. In particular, the new service will offer Collections, a new tool that lets users share and save locations for cross-platform access. Here will also feature 3D imaging via its web platform and map editing - enabling users to add roads and paths that aren't in the original map and then share them. It will also offer an explore feature that presents points-of-interest based on a user's location. In a further effort to fortify its already strong maps services, Nokia also announced that it is acquiring Berkeley, CA, based earthmine, a specialist in 3D imaging.
Nokia powers map services for Bing, Garmin, Rand McNally as well as of course its own Windows Phone 8 phones. Given the backlash after Apple's (AAPL) MapGate affair, this significant strengthening of its map services can only be a boon to its WP 8 phones. But this move is more than that. It is means it is really going toe to toe with Google (GOOG) with its mapping services by detaching them from its brand and making it a truly cross-platform offering - working on multiple devices and operating systems. In fact, Nokia announced that it plans to release a free iOS Here app and provide a SDK for developing Android apps that use Here. It already, of course, has deals with both Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon (AMZN).
The move to Here is a big step forward for Nokia as it attempts to turn its location services into a big revenue generator. As Nokia CEO Stephan Elop told AllthingsD, location will be one of five key businesses for Nokia going forward, alongside smartphones, basic phones, patents and cellular infrastructure. Elop went on to say "there (ARE) a whole generation of location-based applications that are just being invented. Having a strong position in a location-based platform - the thing that defines mobility - is a very powerful place to be."
As Nokia strives to monetize its own location-based services, it is not a stretch to see how its efforts will benefit both large partners and smaller players with such services as location-based advertising such as Waze recently enabled with its Waze Ads platform. Such location-guided advertising will enable businesses to send messages and produce ads that reach those people who are already en route and searching for nearby restaurants, hotels and other services. All of this points to a bright future for Here and can only enhance the prospects for both Nokia and its partners.
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