Apple’s maps are bad. Even Tim Cook knows this and apologized for them. Google’s maps are good, thanks to years of work, massive computing resources, and thousands of people handcorrecting map data.
But there are more than two horses in the race to create an index of the physical world. There’s a third company that’s invested billions of dollars, employs thousands of mapmakers, and even drives around its own version of Google’s mythic “Street View” cars.
That company is Nokia, the still-giant but oft-maligned Finnish mobile phone maker, which acquired the geographic information systems company Navteq back in 2007 for $8 billion. That’s only a bit less than the Nokia’s current market value of a bit less than $10 billion, which is down 93 percent since 2007. This might be bad news for the company’s shareholders, but if a certain tech giant with a massive interest in mobile content (Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo) were looking to catch up or stay even with Google, the company’s Location & Commerce unit might look like a nice acquisition they could get on the cheap (especially given that the segment lost 1.5 billion euros last year). Microsoft and Yahoo are already thick as thieves with Nokia’s mapping crew, but Apple is the company that needs the most help.
Apple has bad maps. Nokia has maps that are better than Google’s, according to Madrigal, though nobody thinks about it. Apple has enough money that an $8 billion buy wouldn’t even make them blink. So, should they?