Author(s): Peter Bryer
Strong momentum at Nokia's Here unit is enabling the provider of digital maps and services to expand its reach across the globe thanks to the advantages of being platform-neutral and search engine-agnostic.
Last week, Here announced that it would provide Chinese Baidu with digital map data for the search firm's location services, aimed at Chinese travellers outside of China. Here data will be used in versions of Baidu Maps for Android and iOS. The companies point to the growing number of Chinese tourists travelling abroad — now almost 100 million per year. Here data will be used to assist these tourists as they travel further and spend more. Key destination sites for Chinese tourists beyond Taiwan and Hong Kong now include Seoul, London, Paris and Berlin.
Providing points of interest and directions to 100 million tourists and shoppers who are new to a city provides opportunities to bring contextual offers in native languages, potentially enabling retailers and restaurants to reach this specific audience with very targeted messages.
In an effort to expand its customer numbers, Nokia also announced that Here Maps is now available for a wide number of Android devices via the Google Play Store. This pits Nokia's Here against Google's maps app. There's a high level of subjectivity to the quality of search and usability in each map application, but Here provides users the ability to store most maps directly on the device for offline use — a key differentiator and a feature that's particularly useful for travellers concerned about data charges abroad. Nokia has announced that an updated version of Here will be available for iOS in "early 2015".
Here has grown well beyond its original Windows Phone origins and will be soon be available for most recently-released smartphones. Here is also a supplier to automobile makers and manufacturers of navigation devices, and is being used on Samsung's Tizen-based wearables.
Suppliers of quality, wide-area digital maps are limited. TomTom's Tele Atlas unit and the crowd-sourced OpenStreetMap initiative also offer digital map data through different models. However, momentum is currently in Nokia's favour, partly a result of being less attached to a specific platform. If Nokia could grow fresh business models in its mapping unit, it could use geography to its advantage.