It’s no secret that Nokia has been touting its HERE mapping division for sale for a short time already now – and while it might seem like there are a few companies that could put the technology to good use, the most obvious options aren’t likely to shell out on the business.
Google and Apple – arguably two of the players that should be most interested in buying HERE, if for nothing else, to prevent rivals from getting their hands on it – both have their own mapping systems. Even though Apple’s isn’t really as good as everyone would like it to be, the company isn’t likely to ditch it in favor of integrating HERE, or starting again from the ground up.
The same goes for Google – it has spent a massive amount of time, effort and money on implementing its own mapping system, so buying in an external option like HERE doesn’t make a lot of sense. It also owns Waze and could easily make more of the two services together. Adding a third into the mix doesn’t make sense.
It’s a similar story for Microsoft, which has Bing Maps. Having just completed its purchase of Nokia’s handset business, it would have cut a deal for the mapping service then if it were seriously interested.
Facebook, on the other hand, is a prime target for HERE. According to TechCrunch, other names on the table include Uber, Yahoo, Samsung and Tencent.
However, while some of those companies make sense on the surface of it, a deal with Facebook would make the most sense in terms of breadth.
Right now, there are signs that early testing around how the service could be best put to use across Facebook’s various properties is under way. While nothing has been publicly announced, Facebook has confirmed that it’s carrying out limited tests with HERE maps in the Android versions of some standalone apps, including Messenger and Instagram. It isn’t using HERE as the default in the main Facebook app on iOS or Android yet though.
“We are testing Nokia HERE maps across Facebook to give us more control and flexibility in delivering a consistent maps experience,” a Facebook spokesperson told us. There was no additional comment on the potential for an acquisition. Nokia said: “We’re excited that our maps can be enjoyed by Facebook users.”
Of course, testing alone is not a solid indication that Facebook will be opening its chequebook any time soon, but it should – HERE is a reliable, fully-featured mapping system that has potential to provide an additional rich layer of user data around location services, a direction the company seems happy to move in and one that opens up additional revenue opportunities from businesses wanting to engage those users.
If Facebook doesn’t buy HERE, some other company will, and then the social behemoth will have a whole new round of negotiations to carry out, or will need to find a new mapping option altogether. With all the interest around self-driving cars and a growing focus on tech from the automotive industry, it can’t be too long before a big car maker decides it wants a piece of the software pie too.
Your move, Facebook.