Weekly Brief: Nokia HERE in flux after CEO departs

Weekly Brief: Nokia HERE in flux after CEO departs

In this week’s Brief: Nokia HERE, Apple Maps, MapQuest, TomTom, Sygic, Be-On-Road App, OpenStreetMap, Nokia Connected Car Fund, Zubie, Magna, Apple CarPlay, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Geneva Motor Show, Garmin, C.J. Driscoll & Associates, Jaguar and Paris Motor Show.

It wasn’t long ago that Nokia HERE had designs on Here.com becoming the premier consumer destination for maps and directions — only for Google Maps to drive it into near oblivion. Now, some two years later, after failing to launch a compelling iPhone and Android app, Nokia announced that HERE’s CEO Michael Halbherr will step down effective September 1, 2014.


Word has it that new Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri pushed out Halbherr, who had little to stand on after the failure of his consumer-first strategy. Presumably the company will focus more on business-to-business sales of commercial map data moving forward, an area that has languished in recent years with big new accounts like Apple Maps and established accounts like MapQuest going to competitor TomTom.

The Nokia press release gave no clues, however, just a false air of bons amis between Halbherr and Suri, both of whom graciously wished each other well in the future.

In other news, mobile navigation giant Sygic took strides to close the gap with Google/Waze with the acquisition of the Be-On-Road App, which provides a no-cost offline navigation solution for drivers in the low-end navigation market. The app is derived from free community based map data from OpenStreetMap. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Sygic says it plans to monetize the app with a freemium model and in-app purchases. Sygic’s global navigation footprint is now more than 55 million downloads.

The Nokia Connected Car Fund put some of its $100-million pool to work with an $8-million investment in Zubie, an aftermarket device that plugs into the OBD port and funnels a range of diagnostic info, from car health to driving behavior reports, to the Zubie mobile app. Zubie retails for just shy of $100 on Amazon and at Best Buy, the latter of which first brought the product to market in 2012. Global automotive supplier Magna also participated in Zubie’s latest funding round.

Apple CarPlay deployment hit some minor delays as news circulated that both Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, which previously committed to having CarPlay on the market in their cars in 2014, have pushed back deployment until 2015. Neither automaker offered a direct explanation, leaving us to wonder if CarPlay integration has proven more difficult than expected or if the automakers were trying to capture some extra media attention when CarPlay buzz was at its height back in March at the Geneva Motor Show.

On the fleet front, Garmin introduced its first Android-based fleet navigators. The “fleet 660” is designed for local-service fleets, the “fleet 670” for commercial long-haul trucking fleets. Garmin is pushing the customization angle, noting that the Android architecture allows customers to easily customize the interface and integrate apps and widgets from their partners for signature captures, work orders and inspection reports. Both devices are expected to become available in the fourth quarter of 2014 and to retail for between $400 and $450.

China was ranked the fastest growing fleet telematics market in the world and the second largest behind the U.S. in a new study from market research firm C.J. Driscoll & Associates. More than five million GPS fleet tracking and Beidou tracking devices are used to monitor fleet vehicles and other assets in China today, a number that the study projects to grow to more than 12 million by 2018 due to new regulations from the Chinese government, which wants to mandate commercial telematics to help reduce unauthorized use of government vehicles, enhance safety and reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions.

Finally, Jaguar announced plans to unveil an infotainment system at the upcoming Paris Motor Show with a laser-powered HUD display. The industry first will harness optical amplification to project sharp, high-contrast colour images onto the windscreen, purportedly providing the driver with information like speed and navigation instructions with “maximum clarity and minimum distraction.” Jaguar says the laser HUD is smaller and almost a third lighter than existing systems.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Brazil & LATAM 2014 on September 24-25, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics West Coast 2014 on October 30-31 in San Diego, USA, Telematics Munich 2014 on November 10-11 in Munich, Germany, Connected Fleets USA on November 20-21 in Atlanta, USA and Consumer Telematics Show 2015, January 5 in Las Vegas.  

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