As Apple doubles down on maps data, Microsoft bows out with sale of some Bing Maps assets to Uber

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Uber is set to acquire the imagery collection unit of Microsoft's Bing Maps division —  giving the ridesharing service a leg up as it seeks to lessen its dependence on mapping products from Apple and potential rival Google —  in a deal that will see Microsoft end its own in-house mapping data efforts.

Approximately 100 Bing Maps employees will make the move to Uber along with unspecified mapping "assets," according to TechCrunch. Financial terms of the agreement remain unknown.

Microsoft will reportedly continue to offer Bing Maps using data licensed from third parties, though it's unclear if Uber will be among those vendors following the transition. The company told Re/code that the sale is designed to let the remaining maps team focus on the user experience.

"Over the past year, we have taken many actions to focus the company's efforts around our core business strategy," Microsoft said. "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."

Microsoft's exit casts Apple's decision to ramp up its own mapping data program as an even more important strategic move. Uber is unlikely to license its maps —  instead leveraging them as a competitive advantage against the likes of Lyft —  making one fewer available source for high-quality geospatial data.

That already-small circle could contract even further if Uber is successful in its bid for Nokia's Here Maps, which is thought to have topped $3 billion.

Mapping has long been a killer app for mobile devices and is quickly becoming the next Silicon Valley battleground. In addition to the future enhancements likely to emerge from Apple's expanded ground truth operations, iOS 9 will bring a slew of long-awaited additions, notably transit directions that will allow users to choose routes that include public transportation options like trains, buses, and subways.


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