Google Sells SketchUp


Google has announced they are selling SketchUp – the 3D modeling tool made famous when @Last Software was acquired by Google and a free version of SketchUp was released in 2006 by Google. The new owner of SketchUp is Trimble – while the name might not be familiar to many of you, Trimble has been a part of of the geo-spatial community for years now, and have even had a layer in Google Earth since 2007.
So what does the purchase of SketchUp by Trimble mean? From what we’re hearing, this decision came from two main factors:

  1. Google has been working hard to focus on products that match their mission and target markets. We have seen a lot of products shut down in the past year. Everyone will tell you SketchUp is a great product. But, the main markets for the products are for CAD/CAM, achitecture, education, and GIS-related fields. Not the broader world audience Google tries to reach. So it definitely makes sense for Google to sell the product rather than closing it down.
  2. The SketchUp core team feels the move to Trimble will be a benefit for the product and in fact will be leaving Google to stay with SketchUp and continue growing the product. Google has also said the intent is to partner to keep the 3DWarehouse – an important resource for Google Earth 3D content – and that the free version of SketchUp will continue to be available.

While we were a bit surprised when Google announced this move, we can see the rationale for SketchUp. It gives SketchUp the opportunity to get more focused on its target markets. But, we still see a growing market of 3D developers who can produce 3D content useful to Google Earth.
Does this have any impact on Google Earth?
We believe the value of Google Earth, and its huge dataset, to the world at large, will continue to grow and fit Google’s mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful“. And, we believe SketchUp users will continue to contribute content to the 3DWarehouse and to the Google Earth 3D layer. Every indication we have from Google is that they are continuing their commitment to both Google Earth and Maps with new products and related announcements on a regular basis. In fact, Google introduced a major new release of their mobile version of Google Earth just last month – which shows a significant commitment to the growing new market of mobile computing. Google also has added sharing features to Google Earth to better integrate it with their focus on social networking and Google+.
We wish the team of folks leaving with SketchUp the best of luck. And, we look forward to seeing more great things from the Google team to develop new and better features and content for Google Earth and its global audience.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. I am skeptical of Google’s commitment to 3D. This sale will likely provide a better business environment for Sketch up modelers. Profits have been elusive in the current Google 3D ecosystem for the past 3 years. Trimble-Google Co-managing the warehouse will be a challenge.

  2. I’m scared they’re going to kill 3D Warehouse next! Nooooooo!

  3. Google shouldn´t leave the 3D Warehouse and the 3D models uploading to Google Earth for any reason. I´m not concerned about Trimble. They – for sure – will improve SU. The problem is Google Earth and the 3D models…and that´s Google responsability. For ever…I wish.

  4. So I read the TOS (… could some one lawyerly clarify who actually owns the “rights” to a model created in SketchUp and uploaded to 3DWh? It sounds like it says “content is the responsibility of the creator” AND “all intellectual property rights are belong to google”… huh?

  5. I take real exception to the comment “the main markets for the products are for CAD/CAM, achitecture, education, and GIS-related fields. Not the broader world audience Google tries to reach.”
    I would love to know the numbers of Pro and Free versions of the products that are registered each year. I suggest the vast majority are the free version. This indicates to me (the head of an architectural design practice) that the vast majority of users are not using the product in a professional environment.
    With the advent of 3D printing and its availability at reasonable, and reducing, cost to home users, SketchUp stood to become a product that entered the mainstream almost as much as word processors and internet browsers.
    Apple – you should be ashamed of yourselves! You should have acquired this for all our sakes!

  6. @Stuart – Yes, but since free users don’t pay for the product I don’t think Google considers them part of their ‘market’. If they want to keep developing the product, they need cash and for that they need professional (paying) users.

  7. Having used an old Trimble product “Terramodel” that they essentially let die, I don’t have a warm fuzzy about this transaction. I certainly hope I am wrong.
    On the other hand all Trimble needs to do is put SketchUp for Ipad out and they would make some good $$.

  8. WIth other 3D platforms, acquisitions have not always been a great thing. I would not say I love what Autodesk has done with Maya since its purchase…

  9. Sajit Viswan says:

    Why does not show up on the net?

  10. Sajit Viswan says:

    Will my investment to learn the Sketch up be worth while, in terms of time and efort. I haven’t yet bought the Pro version. I was planning to, when I saw that Google had sold of the thing. I don’t think Google was thinking of making money by selling the software. Why did they not think of the generation of Google Sketch up modellers they were going to create in the schools in India where they have adopted this as learning tool.

  11. Derick Mugambi says:

    I think Google have made a big mistake here. Here is a program that even my kids learnt to use quickly and enjoy using still. It would have been bound to go mainstream with younger users. I don’t know if this will happen with Trimble as the new owners.

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