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Microsoft Stops Collecting Own Map Data, Sells Part of Business to Uber

About 100 Microsoft workers will transfer to Uber as part of the deal, terms of which weren't disclosed.


Microsoft confirmed on Monday that it will stop collecting its own map data, though it plans to continue to offer Bing Maps using data licensed from partners.

As part of the move, Microsoft is selling some of its technology to ride service Uber, which will also take on 100 workers who had been working for the software giant. Uber is also buying a data center near Boulder, Colo., as well as cameras and licenses to some Microsoft intellectual property.

Microsoft already gets much of its map data from Nokia and other partners, but had been collecting its own aerial, 3-D and street-level maps. It will now source those images from partners as well, focusing its Bing Maps work on the user experience that overlays the map data and imagery.

In a statement, Microsoft characterized it as a continued winnowing of the company’s far-flung product efforts.

“Over the past year, we have taken many actions to focus the company’s efforts around our core business strategy,” Microsoft said in a statement to Re/code. “In keeping with these efforts, we will no longer collect mapping imagery ourselves, and instead will continue to partner with premium content and imagery providers for underlying data while concentrating our resources on the core user experience. With this decision, we will transfer many of our imagery acquisition operations to Uber.”

Financial terms were not disclosed.

For its part, Uber highlighted the value of maps to making its service work.

“Mapping is at the heart of what makes Uber great,” Uber said in a statement. “So we’ll continue to work with partners, as well as invest in our own technology, to build the best possible experience for riders and drivers.”

Uber also recently hired Brian McClendon, a top Google mapping executive. The former Microsoft team will report to him as part of a newly formed advanced technologies unit.

The big question is whether Uber will make an even bigger investment in maps. The company is said to be one of several entities bidding on Nokia’s Here mapping unit, one of the leaders in overall maps along with Google and TomTom.

Nokia has said it is exploring a sale of the business and is taking bids from a group that is also said to include a consortium of car makers. Uber has declined to comment on its interest in Here.

However, the company does want to make clear it isn’t looking to get into the consumer maps game and instead just wants to improve its core service. It also plans to continue to use a variety of partners in addition to its own mapping technology.

The Uber-Microsoft deal was reported earlier Monday by TechCrunch.

Additional reporting by Carmel DeAmicis.

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