Two weeks ago we’ve reported that Nokia is searching for a buyer of their mapping division HERE. The list of potential buyers included Microsoft, Apple, Alibaba, Amazon and Uber. Yesterday evening Wall Street Journal reported that German carmakers including BMW, Audi and Mercedes in a consortium with Chinese mapping giant Baidu are preparing a formal to acquire majority stake in HERE.
European car makers are worried that such companies as Google or Apple would gain a control of a key part of the technology needed to run self-driving cars and in-car digital services. A detailed map is a key element of a future autonomous cars and there are only three global players who are working on such a detailed, 3D map: TomTom, Google, and HERE. Car makers consider it as threat to the automobile industry if Google developed an operating system for self-driving cars and made it available free to everyone and it seems that they are able spend over $2 billion to prevent it.
Meanwhile Facebook seems to be showing an interest in HERE as well. This week the social media giant has quietly switch from Bing Maps to HERE Maps in couple of their strategic products including the mobile version of its site, Messenger app, Instagram on Android. Facebook seems to be also using HERE’s geocoding API to better geotag locations in posts. Does it mean that Facebook is joining the list of potential buyers? HERE has an enormous database of location and business data, something that might seem quite attractive for Facebook – a company which is experimenting with location but it could never learn to find an optimal model of monetizing it.
Back in 2008 Nokia spent $8.1 billion buying Navteq, but the maps business appeared to be unprofitable in the era of free Google Maps. Today HERE is worth around $2 billion but it seems that the various industries from social media and advertising, to car manufacturers are seeing a significant value in a detailed location data.
Stay tuned, we’ll report all the updates.