"Here" is here. On Tuesday, Nokia announced a new brand by that name that features a mapping service for a variety of mobile platforms.
The Finnish company has big plans for Here, describing it as "the first location cloud to deliver the world's best maps and location experiences across multiple screens and operating systems." Here builds on Nokia's 20 years of experience in mapping technology. In addition to a less-ambitious version previously available on its own smartphones, Nokia's mapping technology has also been used in cars and handheld GPS devices, and generates an estimated 1 billion euros in annual revenue.
Here includes a new technology called LiveSight, which is based on what the company called a "highly accurate" 3D map of the world.
On Nokia's Windows Phone 8 Lumia devices, an app called Nokia City Lens is the first to offer a LiveSight-enabled experience, a real-time mashup that overlays information on a scene when the user points the phone's camera at a building or street, such as superimposed over a shot of a restaurant. While the Here service is being made available to the major mobile platforms and to OEMs, certain value-added applications, such as City Lens, will only be available on Nokia's products.
The company also announced that it is launching a version of Here for Apple's iOS. The iOS app, based on HTML5, features offline capabilities, voice-guided walk navigation, and public transportation directions.
The iOS version will be available as a free download from Apple's App Store within the next few weeks. Additionally, Nokia has announced a strategic partnership with Mozilla to develop a version for the Firefox OS next year.
An Android OS-based reference app has already been demonstrated, and the company plans to release a Here Software Development Kit for Android OEMs by early next year. This will enable manufacturers of Android devices to create their own location-based services, using Nokia's data.
To support the 3D mapping capabilities of Here, Nokia has also announced that it is planning to buy a Berkeley, Calif.-based company called Earthmine, whose reality capture and processing technologies will become part of Here. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
In addition to positioning the company as the largest device-independent provider of mapping, Here could also take advantage of Apple's major software weakness on its recently released iOS 6 platform.
Apple's new Maps application for iOS 6 has been widely criticized as being not ready for primetime, with many complaints about the app's accuracy, visual information and functions. In fact, the complaints have been so bad that earlier this fall, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a rare apology for that product.
Apple launched iOS 6 without Google's popular Maps app, and replaced it with its own. Reportedly, Google is preparing a December release of its Maps app for iOS 6.