Despite some legal troubles–both civil and criminal–for the five-year-old ride sharing car service Uber, its latest round of fundraising got a significant boost from Microsoft. The software giant reportedly invested $100 million dollars in the company, bringing its total value to somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 billion.
Microsoft might seem like an unlikely partner for a ride sharing service, but when you look at Microsoft future goals and current works in progress, it starts to make sense. Industry experts have speculated on everything from better map services for drivers to a self-driving car, but some think the interest is a little more basic than that. So basic, in fact, that it’s people-powered.
We do love acronyms (as the IoT has proven), but a new one–HaaS, or “humans as a service”–is taking the startup culture and tech sector by storm. Some of the unlikeliest companies are investing in the most basic of game-changing concepts, as the idea is to put more people to work serving other people. HaaS is a business model and an ideal that’s really at the heart of everything Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates invests his time and funds in these days. Whether Microsoft has something to gain from its investment or just wants to see better global transportation options that stand to have less impact on the environment (as in, “I was headed that way anyway, want to pay me for a ride?”) remains to be seen.
Of course, Microsoft didn’t get to be… well, Microsoft… by not making a buck on its projects. One article by ABC News has speculated that Microsoft has an interest in meshing Uber with its cloud services, which would make sense given the amount of data the would-be taxi service collects on its users. Ideally, if Microsoft stepped in to provide those services, it would prevent the problems that have plagued Uber from the beginning in terms of privacy violations, account mining, and outright spying on users as they ride.