Nokia: basically the world's largest maps company

Nokia wants you to know that it's one of the biggest mapping companies you didn't know about. In fact, when you add its in-car, web and mobile presence together, it's pretty much the king of maps.

Nokia's web map of the San Francisco Bay Area.
(Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

Nokia's mapping platform powers Yahoo services, and increasingly gives Microsoft's Bing its cartographic data.

Thanks to its Navteq buy in 2007, Finland's finest claims an automotive presence in more than 80 per cent of in-dash navigation modules and after-market devices.

"We're basically the world's largest mapping company," Hans Peter Brondmo, head of innovation for Nokia's Location and Commerce business, told CNET. Brondmo added that Nokia's maps platform enables 176 million devices in 196 countries and over 50 languages.

Fierce competition

While Nokia may yet be "unrivalled" in automotive now, fierce competition lies on the road ahead. Google just announced offline maps for mobile that will surely score a point or two with Android phone users, who often use Google Maps' free built-in turn-by-turn voice directions in lieu of or in addition to other in-car navigation.

Depending on what research you look at, Android phones comprise roughly half the US smartphone market, which makes Google poised to challenge and possibly surpass Nokia down the line.

Nokia will also have to brace for a new mapping rival in Apple. The Cupertino, California, company is expected to break with Google in the next version of its iOS device software, and introduce its own mapping solution, quite possibly with turn-by-turn voice readouts.

Answer every "where" question

At least outwardly, Nokia's Brondmo is taking the competition in stride, waiting to see what "interesting things" Apple and Google will unveil.

Nokia hasn't been idle. In February, it announced its intention to partner with Groupon to provide greater context and flexibility around the maps it feeds out, particularly in mobile. In March, the company launched turn-by-turn walking directions optimised for devices with mobile browsers.

Integration with third-party partners like Yelp and Foursquare will help give users the answers they're looking for when they launch a map. According to Nokia's Brondmo, answering "every question with a 'where' in it" is the ultimate goal: for instance, where am I and where should I eat?

It's a lofty aspiration, for sure, but Nokia will have to pull out the big guns if it's to fight off Google and possibly Apple on mobile, car and web fronts.


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thesorehead posted a comment   

Nokia's map data and navigation software has been pretty great for a while now, although their hardware has only been up to scratch to run the software since Sym^3 came out.

However just having data isn't enough - you have to be able to find the address when you search for it! This is where GMaps wins and continues to be superior. The number of times I've searched for an address on a Nokia or Bing and thanks to imperfect syntax, I'm given an address in the USA or Europe - why do I bother? Use the exact same search term in GMaps and it's always a better result.

Nokia's data and navigation is solid - now they need to work on their search system.


EmilyT1 posted a comment   

it's true -- Nokia is king of the mobile world of navigation. but that's a crown of thorns, in some respects. for example, it's free so they make no money from it, and Nokia phones would inevitably sell better with a higher quality mapping tool included, or marketing with the phone. the user experience is negative for anyone who uses navigation extensively and tries other software -- Nokia's Ovi branding on the maps only weakens it's own Nokia hardware brand, in the face of superior apps that cost $30-90 and work so much better.that said many people have their own personal choice, and there are while Google Maps is great for finding businesses, it's poor at navigation particularly whilst driving, as is Bing Maps (and probably iOS Maps will have the same problems). however, with TomTom, Sygic, Garmin, Navigon, Copilot, and many more options we are spoiled for choice at any budget.on top of that, Nokia's market share is slipping rapidly into it's Symbian crevasse, and it's title as leading maps provider will rapidly be stolen by Apple, Microsoft or Google, even if their products are not the all-round solution they could have been.

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