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Nokia launches new HERE brand for mapping service

Nokia has unveiled a new cloud-based map service called HERE, which will be available for free across multiple mobile operating systems, including an HTML5 version for Apple's iOS.

The handset manufacturer said it "aims to inspire a new generation of location services and devices that make the mobile experience more personally significant for people everywhere."

"People want great maps, and with HERE we can bring together Nokia's location offering to deliver people a better way to explore, discover and share their world," Nokia president and CEO Stephen Elop said in a statement.

"Additionally, with HERE we can extend our 20 years of location expertise to new devices and operating systems that reach beyond Nokia. As a result, we believe that more people benefit from and contribute to our leading mapping and location service," he added.

The version for iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad will be made available as a free app in Apple's App Store "in the coming weeks," Nokia said.

Apple introduced its own Map app a few months ago with the new iOS 6 operating system, replacing Google Maps as the default mapping service from previous versions of the OS. But user backlash over glitches and missing information in the app reached such a fever pitch that Apple CEO Tim Cook took the unusual step of apologising and recommending that people install other Maps applications on their iOS devices, including Google Maps.

Nokia said the iOS version of HERE will have a voice-guided walk navigation feature, directions for public transport, and offline capabilities.

HERE Maps will also be available on the Firefox OS in mobile web version through a strategic partnership with Mozilla. Nokia said it has demoed a reference application of the mapping service for Google's Android, with plans to make a HERE SDK available to Android developers early next year.

Curiously, Nokia didn't mention Microsoft's Windows Phone OS in announcing HERE, though the two companies have developed an extremely tight partnership in recent years. The handset maker didn't mention its own Symbian OS as a platform amenable to HERE, either.

Those seeming oversights may simply mean Nokia assumes consumers will take it for granted that HERE will work on its two most prominent software platforms. In fact, Nokia noted that its newly unveiled LiveSight technology, a part of HERE, will first be made available through the Nokia City Lens tech built exclusively into its Windows Phone 8-based Lumia phones.

Nokia is building HERE with a combination of in-house technology and the acquisition of California-based Earthmine, a developer of reality capture and processing technologies. Combined with Nokia's new LiveSight world mapping and augmented reality software tools, Earthmine's 3D map-making tech will add 3D features to HERE Maps, as illustrated in this HERE screenshot of the Golden Gate Bridge:

"Maps are hard to get right - but location is revolutionizing how we use technology to engage with the real world. That's why we have been investing and will continue to invest in building the world's most powerful location offering, one that is unlike anything in the market today," said Nokia executive vice president Michael Halbherr, who is in charge of the Finnish handset maker's HERE brand.

Nokia said it expected the Earthmine acquisition to be completed by the end of 2012.