It’s unlikely that Apple, having made the decision to dump Google’s mapping data from its iOS Maps app, could have anticipated the subsequent upheaval. Users took to the Web to complain—loudly—about the lack of cartographical data available in Apple’s homegrown mapping platform, eventually forcing Apple CEO Tim Cook to post an apology letter. Google executives indicated they were building a standalone iOS map app, but declined to offer anything like a concrete release date.
But there’s one company that could benefit from the commotion: Nokia.
Nokia’s new “Here” Maps app for iOS offers searchable maps for nearly 300 countries, with a select number of crowdsourced community maps. There’s also offline functionality, so users can refer to maps in areas without any data coverage. Locations and directions can be shared via SMS, email and social networks.
Nokia has spent the past several years building out its mapping capabilities. In 2007 it acquired Navteq, which gave it assets such as the street-recording Navteq True cars. Even as its mobile-phone business struggles in the face of strong competition, the Finnish conglomerate has been seeking further inroads for its mapping products: in October, for example, it signed a deal to bring its mapping data to Oracle software via a link between Oracle Fusion Middleware MapViewer and the Nokia Location Platform (NLP).
Earlier in November, Nokia announced the planned acquisition of earthmine, which will give it more tools for the collecting and processing of 3D street-level imagery. Combined with the company’s next-generation mapping apps, including Nokia City Lens, and it’s clear that Nokia wants to become a major mapping player along the lines of Google.
Although Apple is a competitor to Nokia’s Lumia smartphone line, which runs Windows Phone, the massive user base for iPhones and iPads probably made porting the “Here” Maps app to Apple’s App Store a no-brainer. Nokia is also offering a “Here” Maps API for Android and “Here” Maps for Firefox OS. The question is, can it profit from the maps-data vacuum created by Apple’s recent decisions?