Nokia Buys NAVTEQ; Where does that leave MS, Garmin and Google?


Nokia, mobile phone handset manufacturer and designer, has announced plans to acquire NAVTEQ, the largest mapping data provider. NAVTEQ’s purchase is not surprising; their largest competitor, Tele Atlas was just bought by TomTom earlier this year (Radar post). This move is significant across the internet mapping landscape as NAVTEQ supplies mapping data to Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!

When TomTom bought Tele Atas it was primarily to take advantage of its millions of GPS-unit owners’ data generation. TomTom owners will eventually feed data back into Tele Atlas’ system. Nokia has to be thinking similar thoughts about its handset owners. Many of the newer Nokia products (especially the N-Series) come loaded with GPSs and advanced mapping applications (for mobile phones). Given Nokia’s hardware background, I suspect this means an entry into the handheld/car GPS unit market for Nokia. In unfortunate news for the upcoming Dash (Radar post) I bet that they will be internet-connected.

This is especially harsh news for Garmin. They are now stuck with the choice of getting their data from two competiors. They currently get their data from NAVTEQ, a company that will be owned by a soon-to-be direct competitor; their other option is to buy data from TomTom, already a direct competitor.

I am curious whether Google or Microsoft were involved in the bidding. They both must have considered purchasing NAVTEQ — especially after the TomTom-Tele Atlas deal. They have both started their own data collection systems. Google has used their own vans to generate some of their streetlevel views and are experimenting with hand-held GPS units (Radar post). Microsoft is currently capturing aerial imagery on their own for Virtual Earth (Radar post) and are working very closely with Facet for street-level views (I expect an acquisition there soon). I wonder if they are going to continue building-out or if they will resign themselves to not owning this part of the geostack.

All of these acquisitions are good news for us as consumers. Mapping data is going to become more accurate and will be updated more quickly. Mobile location applications will also improve. Now we just need to wait for it to happen or work on Open Street Map to generate our own.

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