Here gives up on Windows; will yank map, transit and nav apps in two weeks

Here, the Euro-centric map-making company founded by Nokia, yesterday said it is withdrawing from the Windows 10 ecosystem in two weeks and would limit changes to its Windows 8 apps to critical bug fixes.

The announcement triggered despair from long-standing Windows followers who have relied on Here's mapping, public transit and direction apps on Microsoft's mobile operating systems.

"There's just no way to sugarcoat it: This is a huge loss," wrote Paul Thurrott, a popular blogger who focuses on Microsoft and Windows.

Consumers who preferred Here's Windows Mobile apps over Microsoft's own were more outspoken, and at times stooped to playground taunts. "Here, you suck!" raged someone identified as "rakker91" in a comment appended yesterday to Here's announcement.

"Way to kick your loyal fans in the face," said another commenter, "a5678," today.

"This is a very short-sighted decision," echoed "Peribanu" Wednesday. "Your most loyal ambassador customers are on the Windows platform. It's suicide for a business to cut off their fan base in one fell swoop. Whoever took this decision should be fired. It's like cutting off your nose to spite your face."

Here, which Nokia sold to a group of German auto makers for about $3.1 billion last year, said it was yanking its Windows 10 apps from Microsoft's mart on March 29. Those for Windows 8 will be updated only to patch critical bugs.

The Windows 10 apps -- Here Maps, Transit and Drive -- will continue to work on Windows 10 through June 30, at which time they will go dark.

"We made the Here apps compatible with Windows 10 by using a workaround that will no longer be effective after June 30, 2016," the company claimed. "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."

Some users were skeptical of that explanation, attributing the move to everything from Windows Mobile's small market share to laziness, even betrayal, on Here's part.

But the move should not have come as a surprise.

"Windows Mobile hasn't gone anywhere," said Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, in an interview. "Here doesn't get any benefit from [the platform]. It can get far more scale from iOS and Android."

Here released apps for Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems in March 2015 and December 2014, respectively, both dates following the closing of the sale of Nokia's handset business to Microsoft in April 2014 for approximately $7.9 billion. Last summer, Microsoft scratched $7.6 billion of that deal from its books, conceding that the acquisition was a bust.

Separate from that transaction, Microsoft signed a four-year license for Here's mapping data; the Redmond, Wash. company has used -- and will continue to use -- that data for its own Windows 10 Maps app. Microsoft is currently testing a refreshed "universal" mapping app that will run on both desktop and mobile versions of its newest OS.

Although some opined last year that Microsoft should buy Here when Nokia put it on the block -- and yesterday argued that by passing, Microsoft missed the bus -- Dawson said Microsoft did the smart thing.

"They're picking their battles," Dawson said of Microsoft and its Windows Mobile. According to researcher IDC, Windows powered just 2.2% of 1.4 billion smartphones shipped last year worldwide. "They recognize that they can't be best in class [in maps] on their own. So their focus is not trying to compete on data by themselves."

In fact, Microsoft sold some of its home-brewed mapping technology and assets -- including a transfer of about 100 employees -- to the Uber ride-sharing service last summer. In effect, Microsoft called it quits on collecting its own mapping data and images.

As Dawson put Here's move in perspective, he rejected the idea that losing the firm's apps is a sign that Microsoft is on the verge of pulling the plug on Windows Mobile.

"Microsoft has been backing off on its own maps for a while," said Dawson. "Microsoft knew some time ago that they needed to have maps on [Windows Phone], but that they didn't have to do it themselves. Maps can't be a huge differentiator for [Windows], but they knew they could license [data] from Here."


Gregg Keizer

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