I never thought it would come to this. As fascinated as I've been with Google Maps and their fantastic satellite views, I've found a new love. Windows Live Local, the beta version of Microsoft's own aerial photo maps is powered by Virtual Earth and smashes Google to tiny bits when it comes to impact and imagery.
I hadn't much played around with Windows Live Local yet, mostly because I've always been impressed with Google's mapping and satellite views and with the quality of local content on Yahoo!'s local search sites. I simply didn't have reason to consider what Microsoft might have to offer. That all changed last night when my husband came home and spent the next several hours looking up every spot he could think of on Windows Live Local and saying "look at this!"
Windows Live Local works much the same way that Google Earth does when it comes to searching for images. You simply enter an address and then zoom in for a closer look. The difference with Windows Live Local is that in some areas, you'll see an option pop up that says "bird's eye view." When you click on this option you go from a view that might be half a mile up to one that goes as close as twenty yards up. That makes for a pretty astounding difference when it comes to quality of images.
Check out the following examples...
#1 The view of my house from Google (on the left) and from Windows Live Local (on the right).
#2 The view of the Statue of Liberty from Google (left) and from Windows Live Local (right).
#3 The view of Cedar Point from Google (on the left) and from Windows Live Local (right).
The difference in quality doesn't stop there either. Windows Live Local has some innovative features that really add a nice touch to their offerings as well. Users have the option of saving their search locations to a "scratch pad" that appears on the desktop for easy access. Users can also add "push pins" to mark their favorite locations on the maps and can create printable driving directions.
Once you get into "birds eye view" mode, users have the option of viewing the same image from the north, south, east or west. Since the images are tilted, rather than straight shots from above, these different options provide a whole world of image information not available through Google Earth.
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft works to integrate this more closely into their local search results and local business listings down the road. It will also be interesting to see if the same type of third party development will rise up around Windows Live Local that has risen up around Google Map hacks.
If you've not yet given it a try, check out some of your favorite address searches at Windows Live Local.
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Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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