Microsoft Goes 3-D With Map Search

    November 7, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Virtual Earth 3D launched from Microsoft as a response to Google’s Earth program, with Microsoft’s version running in the browser as a plug-in instead of as a separate program.

Microsoft Goes 3-D With Map Search
Microsoft Debuts Robust Mapping Software

Live Search received an update from Microsoft, enabling users of the new Virtual Earth 3D to closely explore a number of places. But with only 15 US cities available at launch from, Microsoft has a lot of ground to cover to match the highly popular Google Earth.

By visiting, entering a query, and clicking on Maps, the visitor can see these three dimensional models where available. Here’s a list of the cities Microsoft announced at launch that will have this functionality: San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Detroit, Phoenix, Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and Fort Worth.

The company expects to add more cities continually, and also noted terrain imagery in 3D is available globally. This new service will be destined for more than just its looks, though.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said in a statement Virtual Earth 3D would take search “to an entirely new level. The immersive 3-D experience provides a more powerful and engaging interface that delivers better experiences not only for consumers, but also for developers and advertisers.”

It is easy to envision what Gates means with that last sentence. Someone using local search on could be taken to the location of a business and see that storefront. Add a click to call button to the image, powered by Microsoft’s partnership with Ingenio, and the visitor could connect to the business immediately.

Nathan Weinberg posted a selection of images, which will be useful for people to get an idea of what Virtual Earth 3D can do before performing the plug-in install. He noted an issue that could catch some people off-guard:

If your default browser is not Internet Explorer, the install may try to launch in the other browser, and you may not notice what the hell is going on, clicking and clicking and clicking until you are ready to go insane. Not that I did

Googling Google blogger Garett Rogers also took Microsoft to task over its IE-only focus for Virtual Earth 3D, and its substantial hardware requirements:

Besides the Internet Explorer limitation, the performance of Virtual Earth 3D is incredibly bad on average computers. Having a high-end gaming computer is the only way to truly enjoy what this product offers.

Microsoft’s minimum and recommended specs for Virtual Earth 3D have a substantial range between the low and high ends, as Rogers showed:

•  A 1.0 GHz processor (2.8 GHz or faster recommended)
•  256 MB of system memory (1 GB recommended)
•  32 MB video card (256 MB recommended) that supports Microsoft DirectX 9, with 3D hardware acceleration enabled

Virtual Earth 3D and whatever Google’s response proves to be should escalate the battle for local search dollars. We don’t expect Google to wait too long before they roll out something new to match Microsoft.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.