July 25, 2005 9:07 AM PDT

Microsoft launches 'Virtual Earth' beta

Microsoft has unveiled a test version of a new location-based search tool, the software giant said Monday.

Virtual Earth--which offers a combination of aerial imagery, maps and yellow-pages data--is designed to let users search for and share information about specific U.S. locations, the company said.


For example, a searcher can enter an address and see a map, an aerial photograph or an aerial photo overlaid with highway labels. A search field on the upper left lets the user retrieve information on businesses and other sites, which the tool displays in a collapsible pane. Virtual Earth relies on licensed yellow-pages directories for this information, Microsoft said.

Additionally, a "scratch pad" features lets people save addresses that they've searched for.

The service, which Microsoft announced in May, is free. It's designed to interact with other Microsoft tools, including MapPoint, the local features of MSN Search, and aerial imagery from TerraServer-USA, the software giant said.

Virtual Earth also includes a feature called "Locate Me" that determines the user's location using Wi-Fi access points or Internet Protocol address geocoding. The information is then presented in the form of a map with the user's location highlighted.

The tool also offers features for e-mailing search results, bookmarking them or posting them on a blog. People can zoom in or pan the aerial pictures via a virtual compass.

"When you're in an unfamiliar city and need to find a nearby Chinese restaurant or ATM within walking distance of your hotel, a traditional Internet search experience won't give you the visual location-specific information you need," Stephen Lawler, general manager of Virtual Earth, said in a statement. "MSN Virtual Earth provides a deeply immersive search experience that lets people see what it's like to be in a location and easily explore what they can do there."

In the next beta version of the tool, slated for release later this year, the company plans to add bird's-eye-view imagery depicting cities, landmarks and other sites at a 45-degree angle. The feature will rely on technology from Pictometry International.

Mapping services based on satellite imagery have been catching the attention of search companies lately.

A service announced by Google recently already incorporates a feature that allows people to see buildings and terrains in three-dimension.

27 comments

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This is what they call competition?
"The server is busy. Try again later." Huh? Scalability, anyone? Many
of the curved roads look like a 4 year old drew them with crayon.
Other people have reported things like: looking at map view of
their town, switch to satellite view, and it's suddenly Atlanta, GA!
Posted by (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another original idea from Microsoft
Unfortunately, all their original ideas were *originally* someone else's. Google Maps is still better in every way, keeps getting better, and Google is humble enough to call it beta. Microsoft should be ashamed, but why start now.
Posted by Eggs Ackley (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What competition?
MS Virtual Earth is a joke compared to Google Earth. It's like comparing a $1 toy car and a $ $100k Mercedes-Benz: nothing works correctly, exceptional slow response, ugly looking graphics, inaccurate/outdated aerial views... They announced this beta just for the sake of annoucement. What insane PM at M$ in their right mind would release this crippling service as a beta. Competition general means competing with others of equal caliber. Google Earth is definitely lightyears ahead of of Virtual Earth
Posted by wlau (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
911 never happened!
Look for yourself! The Twin Towers are still there!
Posted by 198775425444042216790779840523 (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Virtual Earth ... According to Gates
Have a look for Apples's headquaters in Cupertino, California. Microsoft seems to think that it is just an empty field. No doubt if I did a search for Micosoft's Corporate headquarters, it would be a shining symbol of technology and advancement. Either that or one large patch.
Posted by (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MSN map data is VERY old!
M$ says the map is from the 90's (and that's OLD , folks). The Chicago Sun Times and The Register have a story about this, FWIW.
Posted by ray08 (64 comments )
Link Flag
Truly virtual
I cannot see any 3d images in this "virtual earth" by MS. It seems to be a sorry excuse to call it a virtual earth, cuz they just seem to have assembled some tiled graphics and created a world-wide 2d map. There seems to be problems in the image-loading technology since some times I see a big yellow patch on the map without any details, when I zoom.

Looks like a knee-jerk reaction from MS to Google Earth. Thank you, I prefer Google earth with its satellite maps and 3d photos to this virtual concoction.

I wonder how Robert Scoble will evangelize this "technology". :)
Posted by pythonhacker (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
oh!
these types of things needs a high speed internet access and will not work on dial-up!
Posted by (128 comments )
Link Flag
lol :)
"cuz they just seem to have assembled some tiled graphics and created a world-wide 2d map."

"There seems to be problems in the image-loading technology since some times I see a big yellow patch on the map without any details, when I zoom."

u are telling so confidently like u are somone time of a geniune, if u r so geniue why don't u have your own company or why don't u write this tpye of software. sob,bsrt. dialup internet, go get a high speed. oh! google did'nt invented google earth, they aquired, whould u called this stealing ?
Posted by (128 comments )
Link Flag
MS is ninth in a three man race
This MS 'feature' is an absolute dog compared to Google's
program. The MS 'programmers' should hang their heads in
shame for leeting such a disaster outof the barn. Road network
is barely adequate - aerial photos shot with a brownie from a
hot air balloon. And MS sold their soul again for adverttizing
that you can't obviously get rid of.

I'd say that MS should go back to the drawing board - except
that after this fiasco, I'm not the least but interested in an
update. And if this kind of junk will be typical for Longhorn/
vista/whatever, I sure as h--- won't upgrade any of my PC OS's,
except maybe to Linux

What a pile of garbage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS mapping service needs more work
I recently compared the Google mapping software with Microsoft Virtual Earth. Google has my address and my street with no houses, my house is only 2 years old. MS couldn't find my address, nor did it appear in the overlay. I saw buildings I knew were razed in 96 still standing. Though well developed they still need to update all their data. Both did obscure the Whitehouse and other important buildings.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
More problems...
Going past the lack of location control, overabundnace of
unwanted location flags, miserable imagry, and generally very
inferior performance compared to Google Earth. it also turns out
that Virtual Earth essentially requires the use of Internet Explorer
and Active X. I won't use either, even on my PC's, and if that
means I don't get to run Virtual Earth, then that's the breaks.

I'll just have to use Google Earth - which I would do anyway.

Sorry, MS, it's a loser.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But why?
Why did you even look at it? Do you ever have something positive to say about Microsoft? I at least on occasion praise Apple and even Linux, but I do not recall you ever doing the same. (Please correct me if I am wrong as I hope I am.) I just had a look and it seems OK, it even had some well labled Australian maps, unlike Google Earth. I didn't even have to install Active X.

On that subject, I have completly changed my opinion on Active X recently. It is clear now after the GreaseMonkey incident that FireFox is no better handling plug-ins that Microsoft. Makes me glad that I switched from FireFox last month. (Sick of crashes with multiple tabs open, which I thought was the whole point, and even more sick of re-downloading the whole program every other month.)
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Recheck on Virtual Earth re Google Earth
I'm afraid that it's stiil no contest. MS's Virual Earth and MS's
Terraserver both have grainy and obsolete imagery. Virtual Earth
has old road map data, and there is no linking of the imagery
with the road map

Google, now as a simple browser page, has much higher
resolution imagery, newer imagery, and the image data tracks
with the road map data. The road map data also is quite up to
date. Google also lets you see imagery, road map, or a combined
image/map.

MS has a long way to go. Google may already be there........
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Stop Hating, You haters.
I am sorry I went to <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://channel9.msdn.com/" target="_newWindow">http://channel9.msdn.com/</a>
&#38; saw the video demo for Microsoft Virtual Earth &#38; Google is going to get it's A** beat, I am sorry the Microsoft Virtual Earth is like where Microsoft is God &#38; Google is Mini ME and plus google has a bloated application that you have to download and install and with every little version, they keep leaving things out &#38; it sucks,plus there trying to charge you for it and come on , they should give it away because there software is not worth paying for ,plus they are making enough money off of all of us just from us using there search engine because then the companies pay to get advertising . The microsoft Virtual Earth is just a website, no software to download unless you want your exact location to be identified and then they have a little wifi plugin to install, but other then that you do not have to use this pluging because instead of using your wifi or someone elses to show where you are at, at the moment, then you can instead use just your IP address. Goto <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://channel9.msdn.com/" target="_newWindow">http://channel9.msdn.com/</a>
and look at both video's for Microsoft Virtual MAps the before it was launched and after it was launched and from what I saw them demo if it is all true, then I am sorry in the map and imaging market allot of companies will be going out of biz soon including google if they do not make there's free and get new options because Microsoft is going to be kicking there A**es with this one I am sorry and I use Microsoft-Linux &#38; Mac OS X and with this Microsoft Virtual Earth, I do not even know why people will be using even navigation systems anymore because with microsofts system they basicly just cut out the fees that people pay because they do not use the Sat anymore, they use Everyones Wifi Router in the US to plot your position when you do a where am I request and it searches for the closes Wifi Hub or router and tells you where you are and you can even find anything in the area, like companies,stores,hospitals,hair salons,coffe shops,police stations and every over head arial has the street names on them and little plot points that you control, it sorta has these little mark points that you can put ontop of the maps and then upload everything you got to your blog or to someones email address, you can even print a full color map. People I am sorry I love Google and use Google's search engine to, but once you use Virtual Earth you would have to be just a stuburn fool to go back to using that romper room interface full of bugs google imaging software, Iam sorry it looks like in my eyes Microsoft is going to straight snipe Google out of the mapping Biz. You all will see when you try it.
Posted by bestman330 (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
whatever...
You are either part of the MS team or you are just blabbing without any clues. Have you actually ran Google Earth? MS Virtual Earth is NO comparison to Google Earth, Virtual Earth sucks,period... I am actually not a hater, I am very much pro Microsoft. I realize Google bought Keyhole and the product was fairly matured when it was acquired, but MS has a LONG way to go to be at Google's level. I sat down spent one afternoon for each product. Google hands down is the winner. You probably didn't get to use 1/4 of Google's features. It can do virutal fly over, aerial turn-by-turn direction, 3D rendering, dimension-correct building structures at most major metro areas. I can go on and on and on... I am an engineer, and rarely get impressed, but I am very impressed by Google Earth. Like I said in my yesterday's post, MS Virtual Earth is a like a toy car compared to Google's real car. Your reference to channel9 interview does not show anything interesting. Everything shown in the interview is easily accomplished by Google Earth. I am totally pro MS, because most of the time they develop awesome products. Unfortunately, I think the product manager and/or project manager for Virtual Earth should be fired. It's so embrassing for a software titan to release a beta to compete with Google Earth, when it's so lousy. The use of Wifi routers for location service is clearly a violation of consumer privacy for the owner. It only takes one lawsuit and one court order to totally kill this idea. Use of GPS system or existing cellular system would be the smarter thing to do. In fact, after this crappy Virtual Earth demo, I went ahead and registered for paid subscription on Google Earth.
Posted by wlau (75 comments )
Link Flag
oh one more thing
I totally forgot to mention this. Sometimes software is better than web interface. This idea of "Locate Me" is really not practical. When you actually need to "locate" yourself, you are probably on a laptop, middle of somewhere or nowhere and chances of not having any wired or wireless internet access. How would you load up this web interface anyways???
Posted by wlau (75 comments )
Link Flag
like all so called maps
They are guessing where it should be, they do not go by city plots, local maps, or any thing related.
I live in a house on the corner with a corner lot. That means a street on at least 2 sides. All
these maps have my house in the center of a block.
Posted by Dennis SR. (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Typical pathetic M$ product
Did anyone notice how old the images are that M$ is using? The twin towers are still standing. 5 year old buildings in my town are empty lots according to M$.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pretty good for a Beta
I like that it takes up the whole screen, unlike google and others that dont. Much better use of the screen in that regard. For regional maps, it labels maps better than google's does. And the street labeling on sattelite maps is pretty good.

The only drawbacks so far is that sometimes a tile wont load and you end up with an empty spot on your map. And some of the images are old - though MS says it has purchased up to date sattelite images for the final release.

All in all, pretty good. I'll probably use this more than others because of its using the full screen.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft plasys dirty!
Apple's corporate headquarter in Cupertino CA is strangely
missing on Microsofts map yet shows up clearly on Googles
new mapping system? Outdated or outsmarted?
Posted by wdlee123 (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft getting sneaky?
Apple's corporate headquarter in Cupertino CA is strangely
missing on Microsofts map yet shows up clearly on Googles
new mapping system? Outdated or outsmarted?
Posted by wdlee123 (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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