Bing has decided to get out of the map imagery collection business and will rely on licensing deals to power some of its key mapping tools, including 3D and aerial images and the Streetside service.
The company has confirmed what TechCrunch reported earlier, namely that it’s selling some of its mapping assets to Uber. A Microsoft spokesperson declined to share any financial terms, but offered this prepared statement on the deal:
Over the past year, we have taken many actions to focus the company’s efforts around our core business strategy. 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.
The assets include about 100 Boulder-based employees who are getting job offers from Uber, along with intellectual property licenses, software and physical goods including cameras.
Today’s news is something of a surprise because Bing has spent the past several years pushing hard to improve its high-resolution satellite imagery, expanding its bird’s eye imagery and expanding its Streetside imagery.
Bing will no longer do its own imagery collection for what users see when they click on the aerial, 3D and Streetside imagery options in Bing Maps. But the impact on users should be minimal because Bing Maps will continue to offer these tools — albeit with images that are eventually not going to be Microsoft property.
More observant users may eventually notice an update to the small print at the bottom of these images that credits the source(s). Other than that, the only noticeable changes will be whatever Bing’s team does to change the “core user experience” mentioned in the official statement. Bing may not be handling the image collection, but it will control the user experience when someone is viewing the images. (In that sense, the deal is similar to the Bing/Yahoo search deal from years ago, where Yahoo gets its organic search results from Bing but has the freedom to present those results how Yahoo sees fit.)
The Bing-Uber deal is expected to close in about a month.
In 2012, Bing announced that Nokia would power its map data.
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