Tizen selects Nokia’s Here platform for location

Nick Dillon, Senior Analyst, Devices & Platforms

The Tizen Association announced on Monday that it has selected Nokia’s Here maps platform to power the location elements of the Tizen mobile operating system.

This fills a major hole in Tizen’s offering and paves the way for the launch of the first Tizen handsets from Samsung, which we expect to arrive in 2014. Although the impact of the deal will ultimately rely on the success of Tizen, the selection of Here not only illustrates the growing momentum for Nokia’s software, but also shows the value of Nokia’s newly platform-agnostic status now that it has sold its devices business to Microsoft.

Nokia’s independence boosts Here’s relevance and opportunities

Maps are not only an essential component of a consumer tech offering, they are also difficult to do well. This was neatly illustrated by Apple’s disappointing launch of its own mapping platform last year, which also highlighted the surprising lack of competition in the location platform market overall.

Google has built a dominant position in this space through the successful extension of its desktop Google Maps product to smartphones and tablets, leaving relatively few platforms that are truly viable as alternatives. In Ovum’s view, Here is currently the only credible alternative to Google Maps as a complete mapping platform, in terms of functionality and scale, in a market composed of smaller and specialist players.

As smartphone and tablet usage continues to increase and businesses take an increasing interest in location-based services and applications, the value of underlying location platforms will only increase. Here’s independence from specific device software platforms and their providers puts it in a particularly strong position to capitalize on this opportunity.

The growing momentum for the Here mapping platform among third-party licensees is impressive. In just over a year, Nokia has signed deals with software platform providers Microsoft, Amazon, Mozilla, and Jolla in addition to enterprise software vendors Oracle and SAP. Nokia’s recent sale of its devices business to Microsoft allows the company to position itself as a genuinely independent provider of mapping services. While the timing of this deal with Tizen might have been coincidental, Nokia’s recent separation from its devices business (and by extension from Microsoft) no doubt sweetened the deal for Tizen, and we expect other vendors looking to free themselves from Google’s ecosystem to regard Here with renewed interest.

Here helps plug Tizen’s ‘experience gap,’ but holes remain

With this deal, Tizen has filled a major gap in its overall proposition to developers and end users, although it still has some way to go before it is ready for prime time. While little detail has been released about the consumer services and applications that will be available on Tizen, it is reasonable to assume that Samsung will be adding its existing services, such as the ChatON messenger service, Samsung Hub media store, and Samsung Apps store to its Tizen devices.

However, as illustrated on Ovum’s Consumer Tech Market Index, Tizen (and Samsung) are still lacking a number of key assets required for a truly competitive offering. These include some core applications such as email, voice, and video communications. But the platform and the applications integrated with it also lack reach in terms of device installed base and end-user and third-party support.

With no Tizen devices yet in the market, the lack of an installed base is perhaps moot at this time. However, for Tizen to stand any chance of competing with Android, iOS, or even Windows Phone, it must offer consumers and developers an experience “out of the box” that is as good as, if not better than, what’s already available. This means it must address these core areas of user and developer experience before launch.

This is no easy task. Despite some attempts to generate developer interest, Tizen is essentially starting from zero and going up against the over one million apps available in both the Google Play store and the Apple App Store – not to mention the considerable number of advertisers and marketers these ecosystems support.

As BlackBerry has discovered to its cost, this is a much more difficult problem to fix and will require some lateral thinking from Tizen and Samsung. However, the partnership with Here is an important milestone in filling Tizen’s “experience gap.”

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