Are HERE Maps "Winding Down" on Windows Phone? (Update: No)

Are HERE Maps "Winding Down" on Windows Phone? (Update: No)

Holy mapping fiasco Batman

Update: Nokia has sent a lengthy statement. Jump ahead to the end to read it. --Paul

A highly questionable report quotes a Nokia HERE executive as stating that the company is "winding down" development of its mapping solutions on Windows Phone, raising the ugly possibility that one of the platforms' biggest strengths is going to be stripped away. But if you really read what the executive said, it's not so sensational. And I believe that what's happening now is not something new, let alone news.

If you look at the pull quote (in orange, or the right) in the screenshot below—it's attributed to Sean Fernback, the senior vice president of Everyday Mobility at Nokia HERE—it seems clear enough: Nokia is "winding down Windows Phone app development."

But that pull quote actually misrepresents what Mr. Fernback said. More to the point, it's taken out of context. Here's the full quote, along with some highlighting to make clear the context of this statement.

"As a result of the transaction, we're having to wind down our Windows Phone app development and shift it over towards Android and iOS," Fernback told The Next Web. As a result of the transaction, the transaction being, of course, Nokia's sale of its devices and services businesses to Microsoft. In other words, Nokia "deciding" to wind down Windows Phone app development isn't new, and isn't "because Windows Phone doesn't sell very well." It's because Nokia sold its devices and services businesses to Microsoft. This is not new information.

In fact, one might also read that as, we didn't want to focus on Android and IOS but we have to because we don't have our own handset business anymore. Now, I don't actually believe that: Android and iOS are a much, much bigger market than Windows Phone. But that is a reasonable assertion given the statement. Just as reasonable as "they're dropping Windows Phone."

"Today we still maintain the [HERE] Windows Phone apps," Fernback said. "[They have] our brand on [them] so we need to look after it. Although we're not particularly investing in them at the moment; that could still change."

"Fernback did stress that support for Windows Phone isn’t being phased out completely, not at the moment at least," the report also notes. "It's just limiting the resources it throws at the platform, including time and money spent developing for it."

"It's a dialogue we're having [with Microsoft], so we will see where it takes us," Fernback continues.

My take on this—my guess—is that Microsoft will continue developing HERE Maps (which should be combined with Bing Maps), HERE Drive+ and the other HERE location/mapping apps going forward, and that perhaps they will simply need to be rebranded. And that's not a big stretch since we know that Microsoft has a years-long license to use the HERE mapping technologies in its own products.

In short, I don't think these Nokia executive statements are anything to worry about. But I've asked both Nokia HERE and Microsoft Mobile to comment on this, and help clear up the questions.

UPDATE: Nokia responds

Here's the Nokia response in its entirety.

1. HERE is powering Windows Phone and that's not going to change
Microsoft entered a license agreement with HERE to use our mapping platform for at least four years. This is why you see HERE maps on Windows Phone not only in the HERE apps but also in the Facebook app, in the Foursquare app, in the Instagram app and many more, even in the Uber app.
2. Offline maps aren't going anywhere either
Licensing our mapping platform doesn't mean that Microsoft is only using our data, but thy have access to our full capability, including the possibility to store maps offline.
3. The more people use HERE the better it gets for everyone
Every cloud based service lives with user input. The more you use Amazon or Facebook, the better they get and we're not different. The more people use HERE, the better it gets for everyone. Don't you want better traffic info on your Windows Phone? That's why we have to enable also your friends with an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy to use HERE so that everyone can take advantage. We used to develop for "Windows Phone first", now "all OS are equal".
4. The map apps on Windows Phone will get better
We haven't stopped developing for Windows Phone, but we are discussing with Microsoft how to proceed. At the end, whether as a HERE app or not, your location experience on Windows Phone will improve. Btw, we updated the maps on Windows Phone just a short time ago and more updates are coming soon.
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