September 12, 2006 11:41 AM PDT

Google, Microsoft vie for Earth domination

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An updated version of Google Earth is to be released on Tuesday night, adding a timescale to the basic version of the Web-based geospatial application.

The feature--in which a slider is used to scroll through time--was previously available only to users of the premium version, Google Earth Pro, and now features a simplified interface.

Michael Jones, the chief technology officer for Google Earth, demonstrated the feature at the Association for Geographic Information event, AGI2006, in London, on Tuesday. Jones showed how scientists, who had tracked the movements of a whale shark using GPS, had then mapped the creature's path using the application.

Business uses include fleet tracking, or mapping the movements of transport infrastructure, according to Google. Jones also described how the new version would enable people to track all of the geostationary satellites orbiting the earth.

More than 30,000 developers around the world are using the Google Earth application programming interface, and there have been 100 million downloads of Google Earth, Google claims.

Google Earth's tendency to use photographs that are often out of date would not diminish the usefulness of the time-tracking functionality, as the basic application was primarily a tool to provide context, Jones explained.

"(The function) allows you to scroll through data layered on top of that," he said on Tuesday. "We're just trying to provide context to understand it."

Google Earth received a major database update at the end of last week, introducing 15-centimeter resolution for the first time to areas such as the Netherlands and Japan.

Microsoft was also represented at the event by Vincent Tao, director of MSN Virtual Earth--the software giant's rival application to Google Earth. Tao highlighted recent improvements made to Virtual Earth, in particular the ability to view certain areas from an oblique "birds-eye view." This addition was made to certain U.K. areas this week, he added.

An angled perspective could provide a more detailed and recognizable view of buildings and monuments than a straight overhead angle. Google's application provides angled views, mainly through users' models of buildings and geographical features.

Microsoft also demonstrated another new feature for Virtual Earth, where a virtual car can be driven through certain U.S. cities. Some car manufacturers had already contacted Microsoft to discuss putting their concept cars into the simulation, Tao said.

"I can bet the owners of (the shops seen as the user drives past) really want to put their logos there," Tao said, adding that the feature provided many opportunities for advertising.

MSN Virtual Earth was also being integrated into Outlook and Windows Live Messenger, said Tao, and users would soon be able to overlay floor plans into the application.

David Meyer reported for ZDNet UK in London.

See more CNET content tagged:
Google Earth, MSN Virtual Earth, Google Inc., London, MSN


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MS will kick Googles AS* in this
correction, it already does. <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a> is any day superior to google earth. Google maps sucks in comparison, try finding driving directions to a landmark (like a park) without having the exact address of its entrance and you will see.
Google still does a much better job at seach in terms of results. It should just stick to that.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Future Guy works for MS
My certain people want MS to kick butt is unsure, but when you compare Google products to the respective MS ones, I personally think Google is much better and simpler to use.

Compare Hotmail to Gmail for example.

Oh an nothing beats Google Earth right now.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Link Flag
Who paid more for this drivel? Google or M$?
The last thing this planet needs is to be dominated
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
by a search engine and a hacker's best friend.
Posted by (156 comments )
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Microcentric attitude
The second anyone looks beyond the US, the maps become a joke (and a bad one at that). MS may have the API, but Google has the maps. It is that simple.
Posted by windridr (8 comments )
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New MS V.E. feature...viruses?
Any time MS developes an app or idea they stole from others (a.k.a. MS Innovation) the only concrete results are giving hackers new ways to compromise Microsoft PCs and servers. Does anyone expect this to be any different than the last 20 years?
Posted by extinctone (214 comments )
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Blind to reality
extinctone said "Any time MS developes an app or idea they stole from others (a.k.a. MS Innovation) the only concrete results are giving hackers new ways to compromise Microsoft PCs and servers. Does anyone expect this to be any different than the last 20 years?"

MS had it's first version of a full earth view years before Google even came along, Google just made a much nicer interface though their maps are on average less detailed.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
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