War Of The Virtual Worlds: Google Vs Microsoft

    May 25, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

The search engine market heats up as Microsoft joins Google and other search providers by introducing mapping technology to searches.

It’s not enough just to have high-quality full-text search results any more, if you are in the search engine market.

Consumers want to search for images, and for videos. They want a way to find as much as possible, as easily as they can. And people have always wanted to find out more about where they are going and what will be there when they arrive.

Google introduced its Google Maps for finding places and directions, to the delight of Googlites in the US. The service lets users locate cities, do local searches for businesses, and find the beset route from place to place.

Last month, Google added satellite maps to its repository, currently limited to a few cities in North America. This feature was powered by Google’s acquisition of Keyhole Corp, a digital map maker.

Microsoft now raises the stakes by demonstrating its MSN Virtual Earth software. Virtual Earth lets users perform local searches that include pictures of the places they want to find.

Further, Virtual Earth will let users layer results about a given place atop each other. A search for hotels followed by blues clubs could be stacked, and the user could see the proximity of a Hilton to a Buddy Guy’s Legends.

The service will combine satellite images with aerial pictures taken by a fleet of small planes equipped with high-fidelity cameras. While the service will launch this summer, the picture-taking will take some time, and those images of some major cities won’t be available until the fall.

“You can really establish that what-is-it-like-there kind of feeling,” said Stephen Lawler, general manager of Microsoft’s MapPoint business. “This is a game-changing kind of imagery for the Internet and for this kind of search experience we’re trying to create.”

And part of Microsoft’s offering will include photos of buildings taken at a 45 degree angle. Those images will be provided as part of an exclusive deal with Rochester NY-based Pictometry Int’l Corp. The images displayed on the web will be six to twelve months old, a point that should allay privacy concerns.

A9, the search engine owned by Amazon.com, already contains 20 million street-level photographs of buildings in 10 major cities.

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