Microsoft is combining maps and local search capabilities with this week's launch of MSN Virtual Earth, which competes against a similar service from Google.
The beta version of MSN Virtual Earth provides a “deeply immersive” search experience, MSN said, and lets users search for information and activities relevant to specific U.S. locations, combining aerial imagery, detailed maps and “precise local search capabilities.”
Google released its mapping product in June. Google Earth lets consumers zoom in on street-level views of buildings and terrain. Amazon's A9.com search engine also lets users zoom in on street-level views of businesses via its yellow pages.
“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,” said Stephen Lawler, general manager of MSN Virtual Earth at Microsoft, Redmond, WA.
MSN said it is using licensed, quality yellow page directories for the beta program.
Like Google, MSN is stressing the new technology's use in local search. Location Finder, a separate component of Virtual Earth, “turns a regular, Wi-Fi-enabled laptop, tablet or PC into a location-determining device without the addition of any separate hardware.”
MSN Virtual Earth users can view aerial photos or maps, with an overlay of road networks and point-of-interest information.
In the next beta release of Virtual Earth, scheduled for later this year, MSN will incorporate “bird's-eye” imagery, licensed from Pictometry International Corp., that depicts cities, landmarks and points of interest at a 45-degree angle view.
Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters