As Microsoft and Nokia continue to go their separate ways, there remains confusion among some about the relationship between the two.
Saying "it's complicated" is a big understatement.
A couple of stories this week made it seem the new Nokia — the networking/mapping/patent company — is backing away from Windows Phone. But this isn't the case, Nokia officials said on September 25 in a statement meant to clarify the situation.
"HERE is powering Windows Phone and that's not going to change," said a Nokia spokesperson in an emailed statement.
"Microsoft entered a license agreement with HERE to use our mapping platform for at least four years. This is why you see HERE maps on Windows Phone not only in the HERE apps but also in the Facebook app, in the Foursquare app, in the Instagram app and many more, even in the Uber app," the spokesperson said.
"Offline maps aren't going anywhere either," the spokesperson said. "Licensing our mapping platform doesn't mean that Microsoft is only using our data, but they have access to our full capability, including the possibility to store maps offline."
"We used to develop for 'Windows Phone first,'" the spokesperson noted, but "now all OS(es) are equal."
That makes sense, given Nokia is no longer making any Windows Phones. Microsoft bought that part of the Nokia business.
Nokia didn't sell its HERE mapping services to Microsoft. Instead, it is licensing that technology to Microsoft. Microsoft, in turn, is writing apps and services that build on HERE. Nokia also is using some undisclosed Microsoft patents in its HERE services.
Here are the exact terms of the Nokia-Microsoft agreement related to HERE, as detailed in Microsoft's Nokia acquisition press release:
"Nokia will retain its patent portfolio and will grant Microsoft a 10-year license to its patents at the time of the closing. Microsoft will grant Nokia reciprocal rights to use Microsoft patents in its HERE services. In addition, Nokia will grant Microsoft an option to extend this mutual patent agreement in perpetuity.
"In addition, Microsoft will become a strategic licensee of the HERE platform, and will separately pay Nokia for a four-year license."
Nokia is now building mapping apps that use its own HERE technology for the dominant Android and Apple mobile platforms. But the company plans to continue to improve the Windows Phone HERE experience.
"We haven't stopped developing for Windows Phone, but we are discussing with Microsoft how to proceed. At the end, whether as a HERE app or not, your location experience on Windows Phone will improve. By the way, we updated the maps on Windows Phone just a short time ago and more updates are coming soon."
Update: I'm not sure what, specifically, Microsoft and Nokia are "discussing" regarding "how to proceed." I'm assuming it is who will build the HERE maps-powered apps for Windows Phone. I've asked Microsoft officials for comment. No word back so far.