The right direction? Nokia’s new mapping brand

Mapping apps haven’t always led in the right direction for smartphone makers.

The man behind Apple’s maps software was sacked in a major restructuring at the firm, after he refused to apologise for mistakes.

Scott Forstall was asked to leave after his refusal to take responsibility for Apple’s much-criticized mapping software.

The move came after Apple decided to use its own mapping product instead of popular Google Maps on its iPhone and iPad. Users immediately started to report problems, with some destinations missing and others sited in the wrong location.

But Apple’s experience hasn’t put off another giant of the smartphone world. Nokia has jumped in to take advantage of Apple cancelling its deal with Google maps.

It has entered into a new partnership with Mozilla and bought up 3D capture company earthmine, rebranding its maps service as Here in a bid to encourage Android and iOS developers to take up its software.

While earthmine offers technology that competes against the likes of Google and its spin offs Google Earth and Street View, it has, up to now, focused on the B2B side of the industry, offering the likes of mapping data for emergency services.

And despite rivals problems with mapping, Finnish electronics giant Nokia is feeling confident, saying its new app will “redefine the digital map landscape”.

Nokia’s new app will be based on open web standard HTML5 and will include handy features including offline capabilities, voice-guided walk navigation and public transport directions.

And, best of all, it’s free. The app is expected to be available for download from Apple’s App Store and developers who use Google’s Android operating system will be able to get a software development kit in the New Year.

The firm hopes its software will be widely used by Android devices rather than using paid content from Google.

Analysts have described Here as a great move for Nokia. Crawford Del Prete from the International Data Corporation, said that mapping and location software would be increasingly important in the development of next generation devices.

“Establishing a new brand is the right move for Nokia in the map and location business,” he said, adding: “Nokia’s assets in this space are world-class.”

And Martin Garner, who is an internet analyst with the CCS Insight research firm, described the development as the “logical extension” of Nokia’s strategy to “map Maps a horizontal technology, similar to Google’s approach with search.”

Nokia’s President and CEO Stephen Elop said the firm was bringing 20 years of location expertise to new devices and operating systems. “People want great maps,” he said, “and with Here, we can bring together Nokia’s location offering to deliver people a better way to explore, discover and share their world.”

He will be hoping the new mapping brand, along with new smartphone launches, will help to turn around Nokia’s fortunes.

The firm has seen its share prices tumble by 44% this year, trading at levels akin to those in 1996. Once the smartphone market leader, Nokia has lost around 90% of its value since the introduction of the iPhone by Apple in 2007.

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