Author(s): Peter Bryer
As originally reported by TechCrunch, Uber is purchasing mapping collection assets from Microsoft including images, equipment and a data centre. As part of the deal, 100 engineers will be transferred from Microsoft to Uber. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Microsoft had been collecting some of its own location-related data such as street-level imaging to complement licensed mapping data on Bing Maps. The transfer of imaging assets to Uber is part of Microsoft's strategy of concentrating on core businesses and outsourcing other interest areas.
This deal highlights the growing influence of Uber, the firm behind the popular ride-sharing app. While Uber has become the poster child of the on-demand economy, the company is becoming one of the more important players in location-related businesses, joining brands such as Nokia, TomTom and Google. It's rumoured to be one of the companies interested in Nokia's Here mapping business.
It's not clear how far Uber plans to go in collecting map data, but its acquisition of Microsoft's location imaging assets provides the company with a foundation to gather and store data for its own needs. Uber currently relies on maps collected by Google and other companies. The boost in talent will enable it to optimise location data and fill in gaps.
The move will support Uber's long-term interest in expanding into logistics. By becoming a general transport firm, Uber will have an outsourced fleet of vehicles that need accurate location data. They could also collect and contribute data points along the way. Uber is already available in 300 cities in 58 countries, and its expansion provides it with more exposure.
Uber was started only six years ago in San Francisco and is having an enormous impact on several unrelated industries. Taxi services and trucking firms as well as car-makers and mapping providers are now all looking over their shoulders to see where Uber is headed. The notion that a mobile app could disrupt entire segments of an economy is something to get used to. There's an incredible amount of leverage in code.