(By Mani) If there is one area that Nokia (NYSE: NOK) is ahead of Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) it is Maps. Nokia has reaffirmed its lead in the mapping war versus Apple with a coveted deal from Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) under which the Finnish phone maker would provide mapping and location services for all of Oracle's applications and customers.
Location and mapping services is gaining traction among wide segment of users and manufacturers are increasingly deploying these services as value addition to their products. These services are being used in smartphones, cars, tablets and other devices to help user with location information.
With Nokia and Google, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) trying to outsmart each other in maps, Apple should be facing tough competition in the location and mapping space, especially after its own mapping service in iOS 6 received flak from users leading to an apology from CEO Tim Cook. Apple maps contained information gaps and geographical errors that embarrassed faithful iOS users.
Moreover, Apple began building its maps software only in 2009, while Google has been offering mapping software since 2005, the first iPhone had Google Maps as pre-installed app.
"With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers, and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get, and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you," Cook said in a statement.
Interestingly, Cook suggested customers to use maps provided by Google or Nokia, implying Apple lags far behind in this area and may take time to improve the service. So, this should pave the way for market leader Google Maps and Nokia to gain share.
Meanwhile, the deal with Oracle should go a long way in expanding the appeal and capability of Nokia maps. Oracle, which sells its products primarily to enterprises, could offer Nokia a new customer base.
Oracle has developed a simple, built-in link between Oracle Fusion Middleware MapViewer and the Nokia Location Platform (NLP). This link removes the barrier of a customized map integration and extends the benefits of global maps for business use to Oracle users. The integration of NLP allows users to include Nokia's map data into their Oracle business applications easily.
NLP is an advanced location platform with a unique global footprint based on industry-leading technology and more than 30 years expertise in mapping. NLP provides maps for almost 200 countries.
By integrating NLP with Oracle applications, maps and business data can align to one consistent, accurate map on a worldwide basis. Oracle users will now have the opportunity to license NLP from Nokia for use in Oracle applications.
"The inclusion of the Nokia Location Platform into Oracle Fusion Middleware MapViewer is an important proof point of our leadership in providing the best, enterprise-class map in the market," said Roy Kolstad, Vice President, Enterprise Americas, Location & Commerce, Nokia.
Nokia invested heavily in its location and commerce business following the $8.1 billion takeover of Navteq in 2008. Initially, it got strong market share in the automobile industry, and put its mapping services in Windows phones, which is the fruit of a collaboration between Nokia and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT).
Recently, Nokia has widened its customer base for its location-based services by announcing mapping deals with Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) and Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), which dropped Google Maps in favor of Nokia's data. Yahoo Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) also uses Nokia maps.
Nokia's Location & Commerce business' net sales increased 26 percent to 1.09 billion euros in 2011 and is a 75 percent plus gross margin business, which Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has consistently pointed as a key element in the company's future plans.