Microsoft Virtual Earth: Comprehensive Local Search

“Comprehensive Local Search” may be a stretch (as I haven’t actually played with the product yet)… but from the snipets Battelle just published over on Searchblog, it sounds like A9 Yellow Pages (90 degree photos [45 degree in the case of MVE]) meets Google Earth (maps, directions, fly-overs, satellite), meets Yahoo! Local (search), meets InsiderPages (local directory & reviews), etc. That’s comprehensive in my book.

More (emphasis mine):

” For example: Say you are buying a house and want to look at the traffic and weather patterns around that house for the past year. In addition, you want to find nearby dry cleaners and restaurants. MSN Virtual Earth would let you view that information on one map, layering each piece of information you request and giving links and more details about those items.

MSN Virtual Earth will provide a core set of reference points such as maps, aerial imagery, photos, consumer and business directories, and ratings and reviews. In addition, MSN Virtual Earth will allow the broader community of consumers and businesses to contribute their own location-specific information to create an always expanding, dynamic and relevant local search experience.

We did not share the entire feature set for MSN Virtual Earth today but some of the key capabilities that we showed include:

· Imagery – satellite maps and a unique 45-degree-angle view of buildings and neighborhoods
· Hybrid Maps — street maps overlaid over satellite maps
· Full-bleed Map Views – a nearly full screen map that users interact with
· Scratch Pad – a online clipboard for customers to perform multiple searches and plan their activities “

The product is due this summer. (A link to an alpha/beta version is expected today; I’ll update when I see it.) The first and most obvious question; where’s the API?

Update: SEW is running a story too (naturally) and offer up these two big juicy pictures (click the first one to enlarge it)

Update 2: Here’s a video interview of the MSN Virtual Earth team. (via Channel9) 32 minutes, 133MB (but streaming, don’t panic). 5 minutes of foreplay before the demo starts. A couple of take aways… currently does 20MM SOAP API transactions a day, so no doubt we’ll see APIs for Virtual Earth. Interactive controls are better than Google maps, including scroll wheel support (for zooming), keyboard panning, and variable speed panning. Scratch Pad allows you to place POIs, then email or blog (to MSN Spaces) deep links to map plots of the POIs; this is a great local search/event/planning experience (IMO). The Eagle Eye (45 degree) is shot via low altitude flyovers; while very cool and useful for perspective, I don’t see it as a replacement for the 90 degree shots that A9 Yellow Pages is doing in environments with substantial vertical density (duh), such as the downtown city views used in the video interview.



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