Why Amazon And Microsoft Want A Piece Of Nokia’s Former Map Platform HERE

Competition among on-demand services and hyperlocal discovery means that whomever has the best location intelligence wins.

Although a group of German auto companies bought Nokia’s pioneering digital navigation platform HERE for $3 billion in August, it looks like the consortium is willing to part with pieces of it as Amazon and Microsoft look to make investments in the location data system.

Amazon and Microsoft are negotiating with representatives from BMW, Audi and Daimler/Mercedes about taking a stake in HERE, according to Reuters, which cited two unidentified “auto industry sources familiar with the matter.”

A Larger Vision Of Location

The car companies bought HERE as part of a larger vision involving the production of self-driving cars in the not-too-distant future. For now, though, the vision of the German carmakers is to use HERE for gathering real-time vehicle positioning data to increase safety on the road and to introduce location-specific offers and products to drivers.

Amazon and Microsoft have no less broad, though more immediate, needs for the high-def interactive mapping software: the data it collects. For Amazon, having HERE’s “Big Data” around location is part of its expansion of on-demand delivery services, while Microsoft looks to build up its Bing search engine as the competition among consumer-facing map apps becomes more intense.

The renewed interest in HERE comes as Google Maps’ dominance is being challenged from the likes of Apple Maps and a resurgent MapQuest. Among the first signs of the intensifying map wars started when Uber began 2015 with the goal of becoming more “location self-reliant” by reducing its licensing of mapping systems from other companies like Google.

Mapping Competition Heats Up

In addition to noteworthy hires and acquisitions, Uber has also struck a deal with Dutch navigation software company Tom Tom to use parts of its mapping technology. It’s worth noting that Uber, along with Facebook, was rumored to have entered failing bids to acquire Nokia’s HERE technology. In the end, Facebook opted for its own location services deal with Nokia to power maps across its mobile apps, including its standalone Messenger and its image-sharing platform Instagram.

It wasn’t that long ago — 2013 seems about right — when people and companies just looked at a map and found most available location services indistinguishable from each other.

But when the need for greater, more up-to-date place-data accuracy become more important as a crucial discovery and services tool — no one wants to be a block away from their Uber pick up — things changed.

The realization that roads and addresses change so often and that so much can go wrong if you can’t control the map that you do business on is what sparked the change in attitude toward digital mapping.  The idea of relying on an outside entity to ensure the accuracy of every lat/long is too great a risk for companies in the business of satisfying consumers’ location-related needs. And as Big Data becomes the backbone of all marketing programs, the geo-data intelligence is becoming one of the most essential aspects of providing real-time services.

The demands by businesses and consumers for precise and immediate access to location-based services is only just heating up. And that means the data powering those services is only going to become more expensive to invest in, especially since creating such programs are costly and time-consuming.

At the start of 2016, we noted that location-based marketing providers netted a collective $100 million in venture capital money, while a number of acquisitions closed, including Apple’s purchase of Mapsense.

In February, Salesforce-backed location analytics provider CartoDB acquired Estonia-based Nutiteq, a mobile mapping software developer, as the company seeks to make good on its promise to become a one-stop shop for insights and data visualization detailing consumers’ mobile mapping behaviors.

As Amazon and Microsoft talk with the Germans, it’s safe to expect that other companies that have operated on the periphery of location services will become much more interested in similar types of investments and alliances.



About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.