Microsoft buys Vexcel to boost online mapping

Microsoft acquired Vexcel to boost its Windows Live Local Web site for local business search and online mapping.

To boost its local search and online mapping services, Microsoft has acquired a company that makes products for creating maps from aerial and satellite photographs.

Microsoft on Thursday announced its acquisition of Vexcel without disclosing the deal's financial details. Microsoft expects that Vexcel's products and technologies will strengthen its Windows Live Local service for finding local business listings and displaying online maps.

Windows Live Local, located at http://local.live.com, is Microsoft's offering in the highly competitive market for local search and online mapping.

Microsoft and all other major search engine operators, including Google, Yahoo, AOL and Ask.com, have local search services integrated with online maps and are intensely interested in the increasing ad spending attracted by these Web sites.

These local search and mapping Web sites are a sort of business phone directory on steroids. Users typically can search for businesses in a specific area, obtain driving directions, display them on a map, often with aerial or satellite images, and sometimes even read customer annotations and reviews.

Microsoft's expectations for Windows Live Local are high, as the software giant hopes to turn it into a site that provides what it has described as an "immersive" experience for consumers and commercial users with increasingly rich map imagery, such as 3D renderings, bird's-eye views and street-side photos.

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