Microsoft buying up mapping / 3d companies, where is it going??

The last 2 months has seen Microsoft invest more in Virtual Earth's future than ever before. The two recent aquisitions to the Virtual Earth team seem to be building more and more skills in the mapping and 3d modeling arena.

In mid December 2008 Microsoft bought the UK based mapping provider Multimap. Multimap were one of the first internet mapping pioneers and have provided static mapping to both the public and businesses here in the UK for many years. In recent years Multimap have started reseller other providers solutions, including MapPoint and Virtual Earth and in the last 2 years have release their own interactive mapping solutions although I've not really seen anyone other than Multimap really use them. The real question is what does Microsoft want with Multimap, and where do they fit into the Virtual Earth team? It's difficualt to see Microsoft continuing to sell the multimap products as there is little to distinguish them from Microsofts own offers. Multimap is a strong brand in the UK so I wonder if they will be used as the UK's reseller for Virtual Earth / MapPoint?

Today a second related buyout was announced, Microsoft now own Caligari, the developers behind the long running 3d modeling program Truespace. Truespace owns a special place in my heart, being the first 3d modeling / animation package I used. Its simple but powerful tools made it a real champion of usability and I spent many an hour building model TIE fighers and animating characters. It would seem Caligari's position in the Virtual Earth equation is more obvious, Truespace 'could' become the 3d modeling program to match, and infact beat sketchup. However what does this mean for 3dVia, the company behind the current Virtual Earth 3d modeling plugin? Microsoft have only signed a partnership with 3dVia so where does that now leave them?

It's going to take a while for the dust to settle on these two aquisitions, but we will been keenly watching to see where the pieces land to hopefully make a stronger Virtual Earth offering.

To read the thoughts of Caligari's Roman Ormandy about the buyout please see this post on the Truespace forums.