Microsoft announced yesterday that it was giving a full time job to Steve Coast, the founder of OpenStreetMap, the position of Principal Architect at Bing Mobile, thereby confirming the firm's gradual shift towards working relations with the open source community.
The deal with Coast is a pretty important one since OpenStreetMap is the equivalent of Wikipedia for maps and has already received contributions from more than 320,000 people worldwide. Back in 2007, Nokia purchased Navteq, which also provides with data for maps, for more than $8 billion.
So while Microsoft did buy UK online mapping company Multimap back in 2007, the inclusion of OSM could well prove to be a beneficial one in the short term as the company looks to build location based services in its online and offline offerings.
Coast was keen to highlight that Microsoft won't own OpenStreetMap any more than CloudMade or MapQuest do but Microsoft, unlike Google or Nokia has ironically decided to invest massively in a community.
The first step of this partnership is that Microsoft will give OSM access to its orthorectified aerial imagery and will provide the OSM community with a slew of new tools to better enable contributions; we also suspect Yahoo to sever ties with Navteq and embrace OSM in a near future.