Microsoft invests $15 million in Foursquare, gets licensing deal in return

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Microsoft has invested $15 million in popular location check-in service Foursquare, and has signed licensing deal with the New York based company:

In addition to an equity investment, Microsoft has signed a multi-year contract to license Foursquare data in services such as its mobile operating system and Bing search engine. With that deal, Microsoft becomes Foursquare’s single biggest source of revenue, though Crowley declined to specify how much the contract is worth.

TechCrunch reports that the licensing deal is more than API access:

This is not a simple licensing deal for Foursquare’s location data, instead, Microsoft will be getting the data and much deeper access to its contextual layers than any third party via Foursquare’s API. Holger Leudorf, Foursquare’s head of business development, tells me that this is a multi-year agreement that includes both data and technical components that will integrate with Microsoft’s Bing platform on both Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Microsoft has big plans for Foursquare integration with Bing, according to TechCrunch, who talked with Microsoft GM for Business Development, Application and Services Group:

Along this vein, Microsoft will be using Foursquare’s integration with the Bing platform to provide things like proactive notifications, integration with Bing Maps, and more tendrils that touch Microsoft’s devices and services on Windows Phone.

Microsoft has made strategic investments before, most notably investing $240 million in Facebook back in 2007, but lately has been letting Google, Apple, and Yahoo! make most of the investment and acquisition moves. With former Skype CEO Tony Bates leading a new senior leadership level Business Development Group, we may be seeing more of these kinds of investments coming from Microsoft.