A Rare Sale: Despite 30 Million Activations In The Last Year, Google Sends SketchUp To Trimble

At this time of year, we usually find ourselves reporting on Google breaking out the brooms for a little spring cleaning. Last week, Google again proved seasonally reliable, as Frederic reported on its shuttering of Google Patent Search Homepage, One Pass, Google Related, and a number of other features and products. CEO Larry Page said in his “Update From The CEO” earlier this year that Google has shuttered or combined 30 products since April 2011.

Google is prolific when it comes to its in-house production, churning out new ideas and products all the time, and the company isn’t afraid to pull the plug if the idea doesn’t pan out. But this morning Google pulled a relatively unusual move, announcing not a closure, or a purchase, but a sale(!).

The product, called SketchUp has become one of the most popular 3-D modeling tools in the world, with over 30 million activations of the program in 2011. And today, Google announced that the SketchUp team and technology will be leaving the Google campus to join Trimble Navigation, for an undisclosed sum.

Since then, SketchUp has lived at Google, undergoing a number of upgrades, and growing exponentially thanks to Google’s sizable reach. Yet, it’s hard not to see Trimble as a great fit for SketchUp, considering that Google has its hands full with everything from ads to social networks. Trimble, on the other hand, builds location and positioning technology used in surveying, mapping, construction, agriculture, and marine navigation equipment.

In its post today announcing the acquisition, SketchUp said that Trimble will give its platform a greater opportunity to be integrated into equipment that’s used in the field, and potentially into the hands of those who will really know what to do with it.

In SketchUp’s words, “with Trimble’s commitment to invest in our growth, we’ll be able to innovate and develop new features better than ever before.” And while that’s likely the case, this does seem an intimation that Google wasn’t either willing to or capable of getting the product into the field, or into the hands of that niche, specialized user.

SketchUp said that, in spite of joining Trimble, it will continue to offer the free version of its platform, whose importance to its operations “isn’t changing in the least.” Google helped SketchUp’s technology reach a wide audience of woodworkers, filmmakers, game developers, and engineers — with over 30 million activations — but now it’s Trimble’s turn at the wheel. No word on what SketchUp will be doing with its $495 Pro version, if anything. Stay tuned.

According to Reuters, the acquisition is expected to be finalized in Q2 2012.

For more, check out SketchUp’s blog post here.