Nokia's HERE Maps may land in the hands of German-based car manufacturers

Kareem Anderson

Image Credit: Nokia

When Microsoft bought the majority of Nokia’s mobility division, many expected the mapping section to be a bundled addition. However, Microsoft’s negotiations failed to acquire the HERE Maps division from Nokia. Analyst, Journalist, and Windows Phone fans saw the failed acquisition as a foreshadowing regarding Microsoft’s future in mobile. There are a few pillars on which modern day smartphones build upon, and mapping is a large one. Microsoft managed to skirt by not having Google Maps by partnering with the only other viable solution in HERE maps. Acquiring the handset division from Nokia without mapping left Microsoft’s mobile future vulnerable. Google will continue to protest Windows phones and potential rivals could purchase the mapping unit right from under Microsoft, leaving the company without an alternative solution.

A couple of months ago, rumors surfaced that Nokia was interested in selling off HERE Maps. Among potential suitors, Microsoft and Uber were names volleyed back and forth in rumors. Over the past few weeks, Microsoft slowly removed its name from the running while it restructured the way it would do mapping in the future. Instead of competing with Uber over another billion-dollar acquisition, Microsoft instead partnered with the company. Microsoft would send employees and assets Uber’s way and in return, Uber would use its taxi-like service to help grab images and power Bing maps. Perhaps, the agreement was predicated on Uber winning the bid for HERE Maps.

Uber however, dropped out of the bid for HERE Maps. Instead of Uber retaining Nokia’s mapping solution, a consortium of German-based car makers which include Audi, BMW and Daimler will most likely take over the mapping service. According to the Wall Street Journal the German car maker consortium could have won HERE maps with a bid of over $2.71 billion dollars.

Image Credit: Nokia HERE

“Nokia has been negotiating exclusively with the three car makers over the sale of the company, whose development of high-definition real-time digital maps is seen as a core technology in the development of self-driving vehicles, and a vast array of future automotive safety systems. The car companies intends to purchase all of Nokia Here and then invite other global automakers to take stakes in the company, the person said.”

Where does this leave Microsoft? Part of the original Nokia Mobility acquisition gave Microsoft a four to ten-year license agreement with the sum of $2.2 billion (1.65 billion EUR) spent on licensing of patents and maps. According to a Microsoft press release:

Nokia will retain its patent portfolio and will grant Microsoft a 10-year license to its patents at the time of the closing. Microsoft will grant Nokia reciprocal rights to use Microsoft patents in its HERE services. In addition, Nokia will grant Microsoft an option to extend this mutual patent agreement in perpetuity.
In addition, Microsoft will become a strategic licensee of the HERE platform, and will separately pay Nokia for a four-year license.

Image Credit: WinBeta

It seems, for the foreseeable future, Microsoft and HERE Maps are still on track to be buddies. If the deal is finalized with the German-based car companies, HERE Maps may still be a product in the Windows portfolio as the consortium would also like to keep the project an open source endeavor. “If a deal is completed, which isn’t yet certain, the German automakers plan to invite other automotive companies such as  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles  NV, Renault SA, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Ford Motor Co. , Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. to invest in Nokia Here, two people familiar with the situation said.”

“The goal has always been to run the service as an open platform for everyone,” one person said. “The final signing could take place in the next few days.”