Uber grabs mapping tech, employees from Microsoft

Going forward, Microsoft's Bing Maps will no longer collect its own imagery, relying instead on outside partners

Uber's mobile app.

Uber's mobile app.

Uber is adding to its mapping smarts by acquiring technology used by Microsoft's Bing Maps, and has hired roughly 100 Microsoft employees who work on image collection and data analysis.

Microsoft decided it will no longer collect the imagery and data for Bing Maps itself, and will instead rely on partners. Bing Maps will continue to provide driving directions and information about traffic and road conditions.

The employees joining Uber constitute "a small number" of Microsoft's larger maps team, the companies said.

For Microsoft, the acquisition fits with its decision a year ago to focus on productivity services, which are at the core of its strategy, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

The assets acquired by Uber also include a data center outside of Boulder, Colorado, as well as cameras, software and a license to Microsoft intellectual property.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Uber declined to elaborate on how it will use the assets. They could benefit its navigation and estimated-arrival-time systems, as well as UberPool, a feature available in some cities that lets people share a ride when they're traveling in the same direction and split the cost. In San Francisco, almost half of all Uber rides use UberPool, CEO Travis Kalanick said earlier this month.

Uber uses its own mapping data combined with that of several providers including Google, Apple and Baidu. A spokeswoman said the company will continue to work with partners as well as invest in its own technology.

Uber has made several acquisitions since it launched in 2010. Earlier this year it bought deCarta, a company whose mapping and location services have been used in cars from GM and Ford, as well as devices from Samsung and Blackberry.

In May, Uber reportedly tried to acquire Nokia's Here mapping business, whose technology attracted other bidders including BMW and Audi.

This latest deal with Microsoft is expected to close in the next month.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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IDG News Service
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