Today, Here Maps announced in a blog post that it’s discontinuing support for its Windows Phone app at the end of March — and it won’t be building a shiny new Windows 10 app to replace it.
“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,” the Here team writes in a blog entry.
The Here Maps app never really caught on in a huge way with iPhone or Android users. But on Windows phones, where Google Maps isn’t available and the built-in Windows Maps app is comparatively lacking in features, Here Maps was very popular.
Here Maps is also the core of the Windows Phone 8 operating system’s map and GPS apps, and those apps will continue to work. But Here no longer plans on adding any new features, apart from critical security fixes.
And the “workaround” that Here had been using to get its Windows Phone 8.1 app to work on the new Windows 10 Mobile operating system will stop working this summer, so Here is proactively removing it from the Windows 10 app store on March 29th, 2016.
Here, originally a division of longtime Microsoft partner Nokia, was sold to a consortium of German carmakers — Audi AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG — in late 2015. A big part of its business is selling mapping data to companies like Amazon and Facebook.
Once its Windows Phone app is discontinued, Here recommends Windows 10 users go to the Windows Maps app, which uses Here Maps data under the hood anyway.
It’s an episode that highlights a real roadblock for Microsoft in its aggressive, ambitious Windows 10 app strategy, as apps like Chase, Pinterest, and Intuit’s Mint have all announced they’re leaving Windows phone behind.
Here or there
With Windows 10, Microsoft debuted its so-called “Windows Universal Platform,” or UWP, strategy. With UWP, developers only have to write an app once, and it will run on any Windows 10 device — PCs, smartphones, tablets, and eventually the Xbox One and HoloLens holographic goggles.
One of the bigger-picture reasons for UWP, Microsoft has said, is to bring more apps to the newer Windows 10 Mobile operating system. On Windows Phone 8.1 and now Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft’s smartphones have sorely lacked in app selection compared to Apple iOS or Google Android.
And while Microsoft has successfully convinced companies like Facebook, Uber, and Hulu to update their apps for Windows 10 with UWP, there are a lot of developers like Here caught in the middle.
For companies like Here, which makes a mapping app that’s really only useful on smartphones in the first place, there’s not a whole lot of incentive to make a cross-platform Windows 10 app. Who would use Here Maps on the desktop or tablet, really, when Google Maps runs in the browser just fine?
And given that Window’s mobile market share hovers around 3% globally, Here apparently decided that this was a good time to cut their losses with the platform entirely rather than take the time and energy to rewrite the app for UWP.
The end result was probably a smart business move for Here, just like it was for Intuit’s Mint, another popular app that left Windows phones behind. But it leaves Microsoft’s smartphone operating systems without one of its most popular and useful apps, meaning there’s one less reason for people to buy a Windows phone in the first place.
And so, unless Microsoft’s long-rumoured Surface phone can indeed shake things up, the Windows phone continues its slow, persistent march to the grave.
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