Why Nokia Is Calling “Here” Here, The Curious Rebranding Of Their Maps Product

As Nokia tries to separate out its mapping business and make it a standalone entity earning more than 1 billion euros per year, it has stripped its name entirely out of the unit. This past week, the company said it would take its name out of all navigation products and instead brand them with the word “HERE” — as in HERE Maps, HERE Drive and HERE Transit.

Yes, it does sound a bit strange. The real reason likely has to do with the fact that partners like Amazon and Mozilla, which license Nokia data for their hardware, might be touchy about having “Nokia” branding inside their products.

But in bureacro-speak, Nokia’s reasons are a bit different.

“HERE is a name that I think signifies what I call an ethos in cartography. HERE is about a sense of location,” said Michael Halbherr, the Nokia executive who oversees the company’s location and commerce unit, in an interview at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

“If you look at the brand, it’s the same font and the same color logic,” he said. “There are other companies that do it successfully with Microsoft having the X-Box, Bing and Skype brands.”

With the acquisition of NAVTEQ for $8.1 billion in 2007, the company brought in a licensing business that helped the unit bring in 278 million euros ($364.7 million) in the fourth quarter of last year.

That business handles four out of every five cars with an in-dash navigation system, Halbherr said. It also recently bought Earthmine last year for the company’s 3D-map making software, and partnered with Mozilla to bring location and maps to the Firefox OS.

Nokia views the model for maps as one that’s mostly about licensing with partners like Amazon and Ford, although they’re exploring commerce partnerships with companies like Groupon and recently launched a direct-to-consumer maps for iOS.

They face a competitive field including Google Maps, Microsoft’s Bing Maps and MapQuest among others.

Halbherr thinks they got a boost from the Apple Maps debacle, although he wouldn’t specify if it actually contributed to new deals.

“What happened when Apple launched maps was that the focus moved to quality and that’s clearly, clearly what is good for us,” he said. “To be a full mapping company, you have to drive the streets, you need data centers. It can look very simple and automated but the last 20 percent takes 80 percent of the work.”

He added, “You will end up in the content business if you want to build a great maps product.”