SketchUp Went From Google to Trimble

3-D rendering software
3-D rendering software.

jeremylevinedesign / Flickr

It's super rare for Google to sell anything, although they do occasionally do it. They sold off Motorola after mining it for patents. They sold off SketchUp after a long relationship with the easy to use 3D modeling tool. 

More often than not, when Google is interested in a technology but not particularly interested in the future of the product, they just kill it off. That's what happened to poor Picnik. The online photo editing service, which was much loved by fans for the easy and fun editing features and ability to edit from multiple photo-sharing sites, became a victim of the Google graveyard. If they'd developed the service as a standalone, it could have been the next Instagram, but Google decided the team and features would work better as part of the Google+ creative kit. It's a pity, but that's the way of Google. Even more obscure services were swallowed and re-used to bolster existing products. JotSpot engineering was used in Google Sites, Tonic Systems engineering was used in Google Docs. Aardvark was picked clean and killed off after the company was purchased, but it's unclear where the technology ended up being used, if anywhere.

Download SketchUp.

SketchUp's sale was rare for a couple of reasons. First off, it was a sale, and secondly, it was a sale at a nice chunk of profit. Well, so the rumors say, since the price was undisclosed. They weren't just dumping a conflict-of-interest product like DoubleClick's SEO arm or dumping off the portions of a product like Motorola that they'd just purchased. SketchUp had been with Google for a while after they'd purchased a little startup called @Last Software.

SketchUp is popular. It is also free, which may be part of the popular. Now it is part of Trimble, a company specializing in GPS technologies. It's an interesting choice since 3-D modeling and SketchUp could be seen as having a natural connection with GPS technologies. SketchUp was very integrated with Google Earth. One reason why the change may have occurred is that Google may be focusing more on using real data for its map products instead of relying on 3-D renderings from artists and users. If so, they would no longer need to develop a standalone 3-D product. 

What does the future hold for SketchUp? Trimble says that they'll continue offering a free version of the product. They'll continue to allow users to create items in the Google 3D Warehouse. They'll continue to allow work on Thingverse, which is the most awesome thing to happen to home 3D printers since the invention of home 3D printers.