Yes, we know, Apple Maps sucks. You hate it. It’s the biggest screw up the company’s seen since MobileMe. Maybe even worse. But it’s totally fixable, and Apple might not need to do anything more than just open up their wallet and buy one of the most intriguing tech companies right now that is struggling big time – Nokia.
Right now there are three major players in the mobile maps business: Google, Apple, and Nokia. Everyone applauds Google Maps for having the best data and interface, but Nokia has been doing maps for a long time now, and they have access to even more data than Google. They’re also in a financial deathspiral which makes them the perfect company for Apple to acquire to fix their mapping problem.
The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal has published some fascinating articles about modern day mapping lately. Last month he argued that no one can compete with Google’s Maps because they have the most data after driving 5 million miles in Street View cars. But did you know that UPS drives 3.3 billion miles a year and they track all of their trucks GPS data?
If a company were to gain access to UPS’s GPS driving data they would make Google Maps’ data look as bad as, well, Apple Maps. And it turns out that Nokia is the company that recieves the GPS data from both FedEx and UPS according to Madrigal’s latest article.
“We get over 12 billion probe data points per month coming into the organization,” said Nokia SVP Cliff Fox. “We get probe data not only from commercial vehicles like FedEx and UPS trucks, but we also get it from consumers through navigation applications.”
“The system that they have for tracking the UPS trucks is different form the way the maps application works on the Nokia device. You’ll have differences on the amount of times per minute they ping their location, though typically it’s every 5 to 15 seconds. It’ll give you a location, a direction, and a speed as well.”
Nokia can use all of the data from UPS and FedEx to identify new or changed roads, and in 2012 they identified 65,000 road segments. The only problem for Nokia is that their Location & Commerce unit lost 1.5 billion euros last year. They’re making great maps, they just can’t make money off them, which makes them a great acquisition target for Apple.
Nokia has been working on maps for a long ass time now. They bought a geographic information systems company called Navteq way back in 2007 for $8 billion. That’s a lot of money to spend on a maps company when you consider it’s only a little bit less than Nokia’s current market value which is about $10billion.
All that fancy mapping ability really isn’t helping Nokia sell more smartphones though. Nokia’s market value has dropped down 93% since 2007 even though they’re finally making some of the most intriguing smartphones on the market.
Apple could just acquire the Location and Commerce unit, or they could acquire the entire company, which might be a deathblow for Windows Phone 8. The only company designing unique, great looking smartphones right now is Nokia. The Lumia 900 and the Lumia 920 are stunning and they’d fit in with Apple’s design ethos. Hell, Apple even had prototypes that look similar to Nokia’s injection molded beauties. Apple doesn’t need Nokia’s hardware, but it wouldn’t hurt to rope them in while they’re acquiring the elixir to cure Apple’s mapping woes, so why not go for it?