Microsoft Addresses Vexcel Aquisition

By Adena Schutzberg and Hal Reid

Editors Adena Schutzberg and Hal Reid listened to a press conference given by Microsoft about the finalization of its acquisition of Vexcel (press release). The conference was held at the ASPRS Conference being held this week in Reno, Nevada.

Scope of Virtual Earth
Steve Lawler, General Manager, Virtual Earth Business Unit, explained that the key function of Virtual Earth is to solve the search problem and create an intuitive way to navigate through spatial information. There is a need for lots of imagery - both 2D and 3D. The challenge is to provide the best content in a real-world framework, so people can work in a medium they readily understand.

Down the road users will have the ability to add content, personal information, company information, etc. This should will create a community of spatial content, including opinions, reviews and the like. That in turn will make Virtual Earth both a destination and a platform that supports consumers, businesses and government.

Why the Acquisition of Vexcel
Lawler went on to explain the "why" of the acquisition, which was first noted in the press in March. First, he cited the pool of creative and talented people at Vexcel noting the passion for the work and the alignment with the vision and strategy of Visual Earth.

Second, he pointed to Vexcel's credibility and history with government and the public sector. Part of the Microsoft vision is to round this out with consumer and business offerings.

Third, Vexcel bring assets and expertise in visualization and imagery acquisition. The UltraCam is considered by Microsoft to be the leading digital camera of its type.

Microsoft plans to keep the offices around the world and the staff and officers of the company intact.

The Vexcel Vision
John Curlander, former CEO of Vexcel and now a Microsoft employee started off by comparing the two companies. "While these may seem like quite different companies - Vexcel as mapping and remote sensing, with most customers the government, and Microsoft as a consumer company, both are technology companies." Vexcel adds value as a market innovator, a market leader in airborne imagery. The Ultra Cam pushes the technology, allowing for digital end-to-end - the collection to the finished product.

Curlander noted the camera adds to Microsoft's vision with features like collection at 4 Gigabits per second, 260-million pixel resolution in 4 spectral bands and down to one-inch resolution with triple redundant 3D imagery. The UltraServer and Ultra Work Suite also add value.

Impact on the Industry: Microsoft's View
The partnerships will extend the reach across data collectors, processors and application builders. Microsoft hopes to create tight relationships with the spaceborne data collection companies as well as aerial service providers. Lawler offered that Microsoft is the largest partnering company in the world with the largest partner channel. They want Virtual Earth to become an eco-system for collectors, processors and application builders.

Microsoft reiterated that Virtual Earth is the future, and it will increase the interest in geo-spatial data across the governmental, business and consumer's areas.

Our Take
Microsoft is moving further into the geospatial industry. It's been there for about a decade but the investment in Vexcel and GeoTango late last year both point the company's realization that data is a huge part of the equation. And, clearly, Microsoft, along with its partners, is not afraid to tackle geospatial from soup (acquisition) to nuts (application development). And, while the company wants to partner with other providers and data processors, it clearly wants control of a significant amount of acquisition itself.

What other geospatial company might Microsoft acquire next? Good bet it's a data or data capture/processing company.

Directions' editors commented on the acquistion before it was complete back in April.

Published Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Written by Adena Schutzberg and Hal Reid

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