With Microsoft recently acquiring about 800 of AOL’s patents, it has been speculated that the software giant might have just upped its ante against Google Maps. The $1.056 billion deal also got Microsoft pending patent applications, and also included shares of an unnamed AOL subsidiary (some are pointing to Netscape), which allows AOL to take a loss for tax purposes.
There’s been some competition regarding online maps of late – Wikipedia, FourSquare and Apple all stopped using Google Maps and switched over to OpenStreetMap, primarily due to the fees Google had been charging. Mapquest, which has 239 patents registered at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, has been a backer of OpenStreetMap, supplying tilesets, APIs and other tools. Surely some of the Mapquest patents were acquired in the Microsoft/AOL deal. Conveniently, AOL bought Mapquest in 1999 for $1.1 billion, and could claim one of its aforementioned tax losses on that deal.
In early March, Mapquest stated on its developer blog, “Is 2012 the year of Open mapping? We’ve been ecstatic to see the energy around OpenStreetMap, and have noticed several applications recently convert to using MapQuest-OSM tiles and other companies like foursquare embrace OpenStreetMap as a foundation of their business.”
It would seem that Google Maps will be going up against an OpenStreetMap/Mapquest/Microsoft trio in the near future.