Microsoft has today acquired Multimap – a UK-based online mapping company that offers in-depth cartographical information across the globe. Multimap users can search for locations and get directions to and between places by postcode or street name.
Multimap is one of the top 100 technology companies in the UK and has become a well-known online mapping service across the world. As well as searching for locations using a drop-down list of more than 50 countries, users can pinpoint lesser-known territories and get navigational details for them.
As with other popular online mapping services such as Google Maps, Multimap offers both a 2D street map and an aerial view, plus a hybrid of the two.
Microsoft's acquisition of Multimap may be significant for European users who are only too conscious of the possibilities that mashups between mapping sites and other overlaid content can bring. To date, most such examples have focused on in-depth mapping and service indexing in US cities and towns.
According to details provided about the acquisition, Microsoft sees Multimap as a tool to "complement existing offerings such as Virtual Earth, Live Search, Windows Live Services ands MSN".
Perhaps significantly, Microsoft also cited aQuantive – an advertising network it acquired in May for a reputed $6bn – as another complementary platform to Mulitmap. At the time, Microsoft said its intention was to use aQuantive to "better monetise the Microsoft inventory" and to sell display ads on third-party sites.
A sophisticated online mapping site with global reach, Multimap could be just the sort of platform on which to do this. Web users looking for restaurants, hotels, pubs and entertainment are already well catered-for in this way, but the potential to exploit in-depth directory listings for other services is wide open. With this could come significant amounts of related online advertising revenue as markets such as sole traders clamour to get themselves noticed on the online high street.
It is also, of course, a neat way of stealing some of Google’s thunder. "The addition of Multimap enhances Microsoft's position as a leading provider of mapping and location platform services," said Microsoft’s online services group general manager Sharon Baylay.
"This acquisition will play a significant role in the future growth of our search business and presents a huge opportunity to expand our platform business beyond the UK and globally," she said.
For its part, Multimap also looks set to gain."Partnering with Microsoft gives us a world of new opportunities to build our mapping services into new technologies and applications," said Multimap CEO Jeff Kelisky.