Microsoft could see an opportunity to poke Google in the eye with Uber investment

Microsoft is an investor in Uber’s monster “close to $US1 billion” round that values the car service company at $US50 billion, the Wall Street Journal and reported this afternoon.

Bloomberg separately reported that Microsoft is “considering” the investment.

It’s odd that Microsoft would make such a big late-stage investment in a company like Uber, which falls well outside of its recent focus on user productivity.

But with the growing split between Uber and Google, Microsoft might see an opportunity to swoop in and have a presence in the growing on-demand market — and all the data being generated by millions of users taking millions of rides.

Google Ventures, the startup financing arm of the search advertising giant, invested $US250 million in Uber in 2013. But in recent months, the two companies have become competitors, with Uber recruiting Carnegie Mellon’s artificial intelligence labs as it looks to build its own fleet of self-driving cars to compete with Google’s.

Uber and Microsoft have also teamed up before: Uber presented at Microsoft’s recent Build conference, where it showed off an integration with Outlook that would let you hail a cab to your next appointment straight from the calendar. Meanwhile, in June, Uber acquired Microsoft’s Bing Maps street mapping technology and hired 100 of its workers.

Uber is also collecting a lot of data on things like traffic flow around cities, and there might be tie-ins with Microsoft’s data analytics products and services there.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

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