Nokia Kills HERE Maps for Windows Phone

Now, you truly can’t get there from HERE…

here_maps

In a move that likely has many wondering how long Satya Nadella will allow Windows 10 Mobile to continue to exist, it seems that one of the main staples of the platform, HERE Maps will no longer be developed for Windows 10 Mobile or for Windows Phone, for that matter.

When Microsoft failed to purchase Nokia’s HERE software assets along with Nokia’s hardware business, Nokia decided to sell the asset(s) to an automotive consortium. When that happened, the software disappeared from the Windows Store. The app returned a while after, but apparently, the software is set to make a permanent exist from the platform entire.

Recently, HERE announced that it will be removing ALL of its apps from the Windows Store, including HERE Maps before the end of March 2016.

“In the last few months, we made the HERE apps compatible with Windows 10 by using a workaround that will no longer be effective after June 30, 2016. To continue offering the HERE apps for Windows 10 would require us to redevelop the apps from the ground up, a scenario that led to the business decision to remove our apps from the Windows 10 store.

This means the HERE apps will no longer work on devices running Windows 10 mobile after June 30, 2016. To prepare for this change, we have also decided to remove the HERE apps from the Windows 10 store on March 29, 2016.”

While HERE Maps will continue to work on Windows Phone 8 devices without any kind of disruption, post 2016-03-29, HERE has said that it won’t update the software OR the Maps on that platform at all, except for “critical bug fixes.”

According to HERE, the software is deeply integrated into the Windows Phone OS; and during the development of Windows 10 Mobile, platform changes were made. They felt that the required effort to make the software work on Windows 10 Mobile wasn’t worth the development and testing costs.

While I have a Windows Phone 8 device – a BLU Win HD LTE – that is supposed to be upgradable to Windows 10, this is a bit problematic. One of the biggest draws for Windows Phone/ Windows 10 Mobile is HERE Drive (part of HERE Maps). Without this flagship application, reasons for using devices on the Windows 10 Mobile or Windows Phone 8 platform have substantially decreased. Honestly, with the lack of apps out there for Windows Mobile/ Windows Phone, now that Maps is gone, there really isn’t much use for the platform at all.

Period.

What do you think of this development? Is this the [final] nail in the Windows Phone coffin? Does the platform have any kind of future at all? Why don’t you sound off in the comments section below and let me know what you think?

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Google I/O – The Cool Stuff: Part 2

A lot of cool stuff came out of Google I/O last week. Let’s take a quick look at some of them in this sweet two-part series.

 

IOGoogle I/O is Google’s big annual developer bash. Like Microsoft Build and Apple’s WWDC, Google I/O is designed to showcase Google’s latest goodies and achievements. The idea is to attract new developers to use the new features and functionality that will in turn attract more consumer and enterprise customers to the Google side of the mobile world.

This year, Google rolled out a number of new developments in both the desktop and mobile platform spaces. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to highlight some interesting developments from both areas and try to show you where you might find value for yourself. Today, we’re going to concentrate on mobile.

 

Mobile Developments

 

Galaxy S4 with Stock Android
Google has chosen the latest Samsun Galaxy S phone, as its Nexus phone and will offer a version of the S4 with a vanilla version of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The phone is scheduled to cost a steep $649 for an unlocked version of the device which should work on any GSM carrier.

Enhanced Google Maps
Google Maps has pretty much set the standard for a maps on demand GPS solution, at least in the Android part of the world. If you have an Android device, you have Google Maps; and as long as you live in an area with decent cell coverage, there’s no need to look for or use any other navigation solution.

As part of I/O, Google announced that it will be rolling out updates to maps that make searching larger maps more personal. Using technology that powers Google Now, Maps learns what your searching for and future results will get better the more it’s used.

Auto Enhance
Most people use point and shoot cameras to take digital photos vs. those that use DSLR’s. Most of those point and shoot cameras are actually cellphones. Digital camera technology has come a long way in the past few years with many cellphone camera specs rivaling those of dedicated point and shoot models. Your cellphone is most always with you , too.

Google is introducing Auto Enhance, a tool that offers users a way to improve brightness, contrast, saturation, structure, noise, focus and a number of other photo attributes automatically. The tool allows you to upload photos and to open a light box to see what Google improved for you.

Google+ Hangouts App
Google+ Hangouts offer members a virtual gathering place where they can chat, discuss and congregate with other members. Hangouts are often used for podcasting and live shows, sharing files and photos; but are also used for collaborative work.

Google has announced the release of a standalone application for Hangouts that works across Android, iOS and the desktop. Gmail users can now replace GChat with Hangouts. All they have to do is click the “Try it out” link on their chat lists.

Google+ Redesign
Google+ is the Google’s contribution to social networking; and its recently been updated with 41 new features, including design elements, updates to Hangouts, photo editing tools, additional storage, etc. While I’m certain that the Google+ mobile app has been updated, you can best see all of the design changes and feature editions on the desktop. If you haven’t seen Google+ lately, you need to check it out.

The one big disappointment out of the Google I/O keynote was the lack of a new Android OS or Chrome OS announcement. Perhaps Google is taking the time to delay a new version of either OS to address fragmentation and symmetry issues. This would be a GREAT idea in my opinion. The many different flavors of Android available and in use today are issues that Google needs to address.

At some point, Google will want to retire some versions and insure that those that can update do. This is going to be challenging, though, as many mobile carriers have control of what’s updated on what devices on their networks.

Google I/O – The Cool Stuff: Part 1

 

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Apple to Acquire Waze..? NOT!

waze-iconThe rumor that Apple is going to acquire social GPS developer Waze has largely been put to rest; but was it a good or bad idea?

There have been multiple rumors reported by multiple sites over the past few weeks (Apple Insider, Mac Rumors, TUAW) speculating that Apple was taking a long hard look at Waze, a crowd sourced, GPS app developer for both iOS and Android.

It was later determined that TechCrunch, the source for all of the speculation had it wrong. However, the idea still has merit.

Pros

  • Crowd sourced (read: user validated) Maps
    The biggest problem Apple Maps has is that it’s a 1.0 version app.  Google Maps has been on Apple devices for quite some time, and Apple basically knew what it wanted to do with the app. However, they haven’t had to worry about rolling their own mapping solution…EVER, until now.  Apple Maps was, in all fairness, a decent shot at a new app for Apple, but it does have some very serious issues.  The bulk of those issues are with the map data provided by TomTom (and powered via their relatively recent purchase of TeleNav).  It may also stem from the way the Apple Maps makes use of the data. Unfortunately for Apple, they are still taking the lion’s share of the blame for the sometimes glaring navigation and satellite image errors within the app.Waze provides a way for users to validate the data. Users can report problems or provide updates to map data that can then be incorporated back into the app. While the method is reminiscent of a real life version of Pac Man, it works and works well. Users validate or update map data and the data gets assimilated and provided back to users in a “reasonable amount of time.”Incorporating this method of data validation into Apple Maps would provide Apple real time, corrected or updated map data from around the world. It would also give users the feeling that they are correcting the reported, egregious errors.  This is a clear win-win for users as well as Apple. Both sides get what they want – more accurate map data, ASAP.
  • Local search
    There’s BIG money in local search. Waze’s focus is validating that what it thinks is around you, actually is around you, which directly supports local search. As such, Waze can get you there from here, but its strength isn’t really navigation.It does local search VERY well. It has hundreds of thousands of users validating its map data on a daily basis.  It knows exactly what’s near you or how far away you are from where you want to be.  This is an area of competency that Google feels confident it does well, too. If Apple wanted to challenge Google in the local search arena, an acquisition of Waze could have gone a long way to making that challenge credible.

In acquiring Waze, Apple could have resolved two of its biggest map based criticisms. It wants to vindicate Tim Cook’s public apology for Apple Maps and it wants to be a serious player in Mobile Search. Waze does the latter well and would likely have been an acquisition that would have increased its competitive edge with Google.

Next page

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iPad 3 Rumors & Thoughts – Part 2: iOS 6

With Steve Jobs gone and his legacy not completely publically known or understood, the iPad 3 is almost a complete unknown as well. Let’s take a look at some of the rumors and see what’s what.

I’ve been reading the authorized Steve Jobs biography, and quite honestly, I’ve been learning a great deal. Apple very much *IS* Steve Jobs, and vice-versa. It’s been an interesting read. Much of the design and thoughts for the iPad itself came before the iPhone. It was put on hold to address and release the need for the iPhone. However, the magic that is the iPhone will forever be beholden to the iPad. This was probably one of the most interesting revelations I’ve encountered in the book so far. But the iPad… that was Steve’s baby. He really wanted to do a tablet to counter the netbook surge and push, which is pretty much OVER at this point.

Apple has the tablet market pretty much sewn up. At this point, Android can try all it wants, but without the walled garden that Apple has cultivated and nurtured, it’s going to be hard for Google, any of their hardware partners, or ANYONE really, to catch up to them any time soon.

So, with all that, let’s take a quick gander at what is likely to come to iPad and iPhone fans alike with the next major release of iOS.

Siri Matures
I’ve been using my iPhone 4S for a couple of months, and I really like Siri; though at times, I think she thinks I have a speech impediment. I keep on asking her, “what’s my day like;” and she keeps telling me that she doesn’t understand, “what’s my daylight.” Awesome. Love that. I’ve also noticed that Siri on EDGE isn’t as accurate as Siri on 3G/4G (HSPA+); but that’s another matter entirely.

With the next MAJOR release of iOS, meaning iOS 6, we’re going to see a major bump in Siri’s maturity level. You’re going to be able to ask her to do a lot more and she’s going to be more integrated in how the device works. While she won’t be a complete consumer AI, she’s going to be the closest thing that John Q. Public will likely see for a while

Siri’s biggest problem, however, is not what she can’t do, or even that she may not listen very well. It’s that people don’t really know all of what she can and cannot do. My biggest problem with Siri is that I really don’t know what she’s capable of; and depending on what kind of cellular coverage you may have, if your inside or outside the Wi-Fi zone or perhaps having a bad hair day, Siri’s success in understanding what you want/need/mean when you speak may vary.

Apple needs to improve her listening skills and needs to insure that the local device does as much of the heavy lifting as it can. Voice recognition shouldn’t depend on your network connection speed. For example, when I ask Siri to call so and so, Siri seems to do a lot of thinking on my end. I know I have 1600+ contacts, but the response back from her should be almost instantaneous if I have so and so in my Contact List.

Support for Siri over LTE is also pretty much a no-brainer, given the inclusion of the mobile technology at a hardware level.

Improved Google Maps and Navigation Integration
There are two issues here – an improved Google Maps (just called Maps in iOS, but it’s the same thing) and integration with a navigation app. Its separate for a couple of reasons.

  • Google Maps for iOS is a mapping only app. There have been improvements made to Maps over the past few full revisions of iOS, but it’s not done anything more than provide map information and directions from A to B since its introduction.
  • Google has kept turn-by-turn navigation in Google Maps for its own Android OS.

In the next major version of iOS, Apple needs to give you support for the following use case:

  • 1. User – Siri, where’s the nearest ?
  • 2. Siri – I have found the following near your location.
  • 3. Siri – Would you like to navigate/go to any of them.
  • 4. User – Yes
  • 5. Siri – Which ?
  • 6. User –
  • 7. Siri – Would you like to walk or drive there from your current location? (if walking is a reasonable option)
  • 8. User –
  • 9. Siri – Which navigation application would you like to use? You have the following navigation applications installed.

or,

  • You don’t have any navigation applications installed. Would you like to search for and purchase one from the App Store?

or,

  • You don’t have any navigation applications installed. Would you like to me to generate directions with Maps?
  • 10. User – Makes appropriate choice
  • 11. Siri – Provides directions or launches purchased navigation app, passing the appropriate origin and destination variables to the app.

This will require modification on the part of the navigation app so it can accept these variables from Siri, but that should be doable, especially if Apple provides the appropriate API’s. Apple also needs to grow Siri so that she can control hardware iPhone components (volume, screen brightness, Bluetooth radio (Siri, turn on Bluetooth and pair/connect with/to.)

At the end of the day, though, you can see that Apple needs to do something with the current version of Maps, because it’s just not cutting it. Maps is nice, but giving me directions and not turn by turn navigation is not what users want. Apple doesn’t control the version of Maps in iOS, and while they can augment it some with Siri, and perhaps provide an API so other navigation apps can fit in, there are rumors that a recent acquisition may be a more likely result than an API for other navigation apps or than expecting Google to bring its Navigation to the party.

Come back next time, and I’ll dive into when and how the iPad 3 will be released.

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