Nokia’s long-standing and critically lauded mapping division is in the beginning stages of being sold off to the highest bidder, as a part of a larger sale of multiple business units in order to shore up the cash necessary for its recently announced deal to purchase Alcatel-Lucent’s cellular network and base station hardware division.
The potential buyers range from a consortium of German automakers in Audi, BMW, and Daimler, private investment firm Hellman & Friedman based in the US, Facebook and Uber. Nokia recently said it is considering strategic options for the mapping unit, formerly known as Navteq, which it acquired in 2008 for more than $8 billion in order to shore up functionality for its Symbian smartphones.
The Navteq division was responsible for developing Nokia’s Maps platform, and by all accounts was incredibly successful, with its mapping prowess being a near-perfect match for Nokia’s hardware, which featured hardware-level autonomous GPS support in their smartphones at a time when such support was limited to dedicated GPS units and wouldn’t be common in Android and iOS smartphones until 2010.
Nokia Maps also made history by being the first mapping client to include turn-by-turn directions at no extra charge, whereas GPS navigation on phones was previously tightly controlled by both carriers and navigation unit manufacturers that charged hefty premiums for such functionality in branded mobile applicxations, whether vehicle-based or pedestrian navigation, which was even rarer at the time Navteq was purchased.
Now, Apple is said to be lining up to bid for the mapping division along with Amazon and Alibaba according to Bloomberg, possibly to shore up its Apple Maps platform, following the disastrous launch of the application in 2012, which initially led Nokia to offer its Maps application as an alternative to Apple Maps. With the aforementioned companies on Nokia’s shortlist of preferred buyers, it may not be long before Android and Windows Phone users may have to bid farewell to Here Maps.