Oracle and Nokia strike mapping deal

Nokia works to find more users for its mapping services as it competes with Google and Apple

Nokia and Oracle have joined forces on mapping, with details of the deal to be announced at the Oracle OpenWorld conference on Monday.

To differentiate its smartphones from the competition, Nokia is betting big on location as well as imaging technology. Oracle is expected to add Nokia's mapping technology to its applications.

Part of Nokia's location strategy is signing deals for the use of its Navteq mapping technology with as many companies as possible. A spokeswoman at Nokia confirmed the deal with Oracle, but declined to go into detail before the official announcement.

Besides the deal with Oracle, Nokia has recently announced contracts with car makers BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Korean Hyundai, which will all use Navteq map data in some of their vehicles.

Garmin will also start using Nokia data on transit services and walking routes to power a new Urban Guidance feature, which will be available as part of its Navigon app for Android and iOS.

Nokia's most important partner on navigation, though, is Microsoft. For example, all smartphones based on Windows Phone 8 will have Nokia's Drive application as standard, while Microsoft's Bing Maps geographical search engine uses Nokia data.

These deals mean more revenue for Nokia's Location & Commerce business, but also the ability to offer better mapping services.

As its smartphones sales have dwindled, one of the challenges Nokia faces in the navigation sector is scale: It needs plenty of users in order to crowd-source data on things such as the location of traffic jams.

By signing deals with third parties Nokia can start to compete with the larger sales volumes of Android-based devices, and better compete with Google.

Lately, navigation has been getting a lot of attention thanks to the launch of Apple's new Maps app for iOS 6. Apple's service fell short of expectations, and the company was "extremely sorry" for its shortcomings, CEO Tim Cook said in a letter published on its website.

Users of iOS 6 can try alternative apps such as Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon linking to the web page from the home screen of their iPhone or iPad, while Apple works to improve its own service, Cook wrote.

But Cook also highlighted Apple's own ability to scale, saying that there are already "more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps."

"Moving forward, it's very clear the importance mapping will play in the grand scheme of things. Allowing vendors to deliver context-aware services with content such as ads based on the user's location," said Paolo Pescatore, director of apps and media at CCS Insight.

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