SpatialTau v2.10 — For Sale, GIS Data Provider, Will Take Best Offer

SpatialTau is my weekly newsletter that goes out every Wednesday. The archive shows up in my blog a month after the newsletter is published. If you’d like to subscribe, please do so here.

So over the weekend Bloomberg dropped this news:

Nokia Oyj is exploring the sale of its maps business as the Finnish equipment maker focuses on boosting growth at its wireless-network unit and improving its debt rating, according to people familiar with the matter.

Nokia has reached out to potential buyers including Uber Technologies Inc., the mobile car-booking application, and private-equity firms, the people said. A group of German carmakers has also shown interest, the people said, and bids for the unit are expected as soon as this month.

A couple notes.  First I find it very interesting that they list Uber as a potential buyer over Microsoft and others.  Not that Microsoft wouldn’t be interested; just that Uber is the one they felt like they wanted to lead with.  Probably has to do much with Uber buying deCarta but I think it shows how little people value this data anymore given that Apple and Google already have their own map databases, OpenStreetMap is out there and available for everyone to use and most people don’t really think about owning the map anymore.

Clearly my gut tells me that Microsoft will want to own the Bing Maps data but maybe they don’t really care.  The value for Apple/Google/Microsoft as mobile platforms is in the POIs and routing, not the visualization.  I’m sure that part Microsoft already has down solid (my 4Runner actually uses Bing Maps POI database for navigation, not that I actually use it myself).  A couple years ago everyone would have said Microsoft has to buy this but clearly when they bought the mobile phone division of Nokia, they didn’t care to buy the maps business with it (when it would have been a rounding error on the final purchase price).  I honestly doubt they’ll make a bid for it today.

Thus maybe that’s why Bloomberg went with Uber as the lead company in their story, because they are who would most be interested in the data.  Uber itself probably has figured out if they can use OSM data or if they need to have a proprietary map database such as Navteq (or HERE as I guess it’s called now).  GIS data just isn’t as valuable as it once was.  ”Free” maps from Apple and Google along with free maps from OpenStreetMap have disrupted the GIS data business.  Most people would rather just pay someone else to handle the mapping (such as Google or MapBox) and use the APIs.  The need to buy Navteq or TomTom has greatly diminished and even Apple who prides itself on controling everything doesn’t seem to need to buy TomTom to control the data.  Thus I think Microsoft will follow suit.

I’m honestly really interested to see if they can sell HERE/Navteq.  I don’t see much interest but I’m sure if they really want to move it, they’ll find someone to buy it.  If it is a company like Uber, it could mean the end to HERE/Navteq as a product.  Time will tell!


Google Map Maker Returns

You may recall that Google took down Map Maker blaming it on algorithms.

Certain offensive search terms were triggering unexpected maps results, typically because people had used the offensive term in online discussions of the place. This surfaced inappropriate results that users likely weren’t looking for.

Well Google has apparently figured out a plan to allow people to start editing the Google map data.

Map Maker will be reopened for editing in early August, and we’re looking for users to now have more influence over the outcome of edits in their specific countries. This means that edits on Map Maker will be increasingly made open for moderation by the community. While some edits will still require moderation by Google operators, our loyal users will recognize that this is a departure from how we have operated in the past where majority of your edits were reviewed by Google operators. This has been a request you’ve made for a very long time, and this change should, hopefully, come as good news.

Community editing, who knew? Google will be “selecting” mappers around the world to be “Regional Leads” on Map Maker. I’m not sure why anyone would want this title but I guess we’ll see soon enough what it entails. Edits have to be moderated before they are published to the map so the quick updates that happened before (and of course happen with OSM) won’t work for Google. I think though considering how things went last time, any change is good for Google.