Nokia is beefing up its mapping business with Here, a new cloud-based location service the company announced on Tuesday. Here includes mapping services across multiple platforms, including a new website and a mobile app for iOS, where Apple’s Maps app has been a huge failure.
CEO Stephen Elop has mentioned location services as one of the company’s core businesses moving forward. With Here, Nokia is clearly pushing to become a more consumer-facing player in the mapping space. The most useful products include the new iOS and app, which includes voice-guided walking navigation, public transportation directions and offline use. Ever since the iOS 6 update, iPhone users have been waiting for an all-inclusive mapping alternative. Google Maps was the most likely contender, but Nokia looks like it will beat the search giant into Apple’s App Store. The iOS app should launch within the next few weeks.
“To win in maps and in location you have to be a horizontal player,” Hans-Peter Brondmo, VP and Head of New Product Innovation at Nokia, told Wired. “I think there’s only two players in the mapping space. One of them rhymes with Google and the other one is us… We already are dominant in the auto industry. So as cars become connected and we move to a connected platform and horizontalizing beyond the car industry and into other industries, our goal is nothing short of world domination. We want to own the where space.”
Nokia also showed off a reference Android application that taps into the Here mapping technology. The company says it will release a Here SDK for Android in early 2013 to allow developers to create mapping applications with Nokia’s content. As for mobile web, Nokia has partnered with Mozilla to build an HTML 5-based experience for Here on Firefox OS. It plans to release that product later this year.
Users can also access Here mapping services directly through their desktop browsers. The site offers driving, walking and public transit directions as well as a suite of personalization features. Once they’ve registered for the site, users will be able to create collections for all of their favorite and most-frequented places, explore stores and places near them, and help edit maps. As with Google Maps, Nokia’s biggest competitor in the location services space, Here offers 3D views and live traffic information.
To power its 3D based mapping technology, Nokia announced that it has acquired Berkeley-based earthtime. The company also introduced LiveSight, a service that will allow users to have a highly accurate augmented-reality experience, according to Nokia. LiveSight will first be available in the company’s City Lens app on Windows Phone. Brondmo says the future looks even more immersive.
“I think about it as something like the looking glass in Alice in Wonderland, where you’re looking around and say ‘Oh, there’s a portal. Let me move down and look through that portal,’” Brondmo said. “That portal might just be our street imagery but it could be a picture you took… What Google did was make the virtual world searchable. We want to make that link from the virtual world back to the real world, so you’re really looking at moving very transparently from the real world to the virtual world. Bridging the real to the virtual is based on this very rich 3D, fully immersive model of the whole world and that’s really where we’re going.”