Nokia is taking one more step to push its mapping and devices services as a standalone business. Today, the company announced during the handset maker’s press conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it would be rebranding all of its Nokia-branded mapping and navigation services as “HERE” going forward.
The HERE suite comes pre-installed on the Lumia 520 and includes HERE Maps, HERE Drive and HERE Transit — a public transport guide “that you can use even in unfamiliar surroundings,” Nokia’s design chief Marko Ahtisaari said today. You can pin your home location on it as well — and use that as the base for all the data. “These personal experiences are meant to help you spend more time engaging in the world around you rather than navigating your smartphone,” he said.
Elop noted that Nokia will begin integrating the HERE suite into non-Nokia phones later this year to help enhance the data. “The growing scale of the platform is beginning to be recognized by more and more partners,” said Elop at the press conference. Those include Amazon and (of course) its OS partner Microsoft.
The company is also adding more functionality and integration into HERE, by integrating it with Sight — an augmented reality service that lets you take pictures of places to help you initiate maps and navigation functionalities. “We want to bring Sight and Location to more and more applications,” he noted.
And it also introduced a wireless charging holster that can be used in cars — which again link up with the car navigation’s capabilities. Nokia has been moving closer to in-car navigation services, with its most recent deal with Toyota Motors in Europe to embed the technology in its connected cars.
The rebranding move is a sign of how Nokia continues to keep advancing its mapping business as a standalone effort, and as a revenue stream that may grow through partnerships with others, while it continues to exist as a suite of services for Nokia devices themselves. It could also be a sign that so far that effort has not had as much traction as Nokia would have hoped — perhaps because of the association with Nokia.
Yesterday, Nokia was revealed as one of the launch app makers for the Firefox OS platform. Mozilla and its partners are taking a route (a gamble, some might argue) not focused on native apps but HTML5-based web apps to fill out content for the new smartphone platform.
This also follows along with Nokia’s intention, when it first launched the HERE brand for maps last year, to make the service available via APIs both for other Windows Phone handset makers as well as developers on Android and other platforms. It’s part of how Nokia is also trying to open up more and more of its APIs to developers.
In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO of Nokia Stephen Elop noted the importance of Nokia’s navigation and mapping efforts and how it’s part of Nokia stepping back from being a strong brand in all cases — quite a seachange for the company.
“Instead of hearing us talk about Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive, you’ll here us talking about HERE Maps and HERE Drive but we’ll also be talking about those capabilities, or some of those capabilities being taken across a broader collection of Windows Phone devices, beyond Nokia devices,” he said.
Still, Nokia’s mapping and navigation unit has for a while been a small sibling compared to its bigger (if challenged) handset and hardware business. Although full-year results saw the division raising sales by 5 percent in the last year, it declined by 9 percent to €278 million in Q4, whereas handsets devices brought in 3.8 billion in the same quarter.