Uber will acquire assets from Microsoft Bing, including roughly 100 employees focused on the product’s image collection activities. In short, Uber is absorbing data-collection engineers from Microsoft to bolster its own mapping work. […]
The technology transfer is far more interesting.
Uber’s app is essentially a map with add-ons, so that it would want to pick up engineers — currently the hottest Silicon Valley commodity — isn’t surprising. And that Microsoft might want to shed some talent that isn’t precisely core to its larger platforms and productivity efforts doesn’t shock. […]
The move also underscores Uber’s ambition. A firm doesn’t hire 100 specific-focus engineers in a single move if it doesn’t have large product aspirations. The new Uber kids are the folks who worked to get image data into Bing, meaning that the search engine’s 3D, aerial and street footage is in large part their doing. You can therefore start to presume what Uber has in mind.
When you truly want to perform at a high level in a core function, it’s difficult to keep using off the shelf solutions. Off the shelf solutions (can) help during an initial growth phase, but to protect a lead, or to extend it when others start to dabble in the same market, it often helps to control the technology that drives you forward. If Uber executes well, to create a mapping solution specific to its needs, Uber customers should get faster response time and more accurate routing (saves time). That’s also good for Uber drivers. Drivers, in fact, might find that using other maps (including any from other transportation companies), is harder and adds more friction.
But, to be clear, acquisitions are the easy part. Executing on this potential depends on Uber’s ability to manage and develop new technology.
It will also be interesting to see how Uber competitors respond: symmetrically or asymmetrically.