Microsoft To Lift Lid On Windows Live Local - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Microsoft To Lift Lid On Windows Live Local

The new online offering, which attempts to go Google one better, combines local search with Microsoft's Virtual Earth aerial-imaging service.

Microsoft on Thursday will release Windows Live Local, a new online service that combines local search with the company's Virtual Earth aerial image service.

The Thursday launch will be a beta version; Microsoft hasn't yet disclosed a date for a general release.

With its new service, Microsoft is attempting go a step further than Google Local, which offers similar capabilities, by providing 45-degree aerial views of to-and-from locations. This so-called "bird's-eye view" is available for only a few major U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Las Vegas.

More cities will be added over time.

The images are provided through a partnership with Pictometry International Corp., which uses low-flying planes to snap pictures. The images are then integrated with road and satellite maps to simulate a 360-degree panorama that users can zoom in or zoom out of in four compass directions.

"It's totally game changing from anything else out there in the industry," Stephen Lawler, general manager of Windows Live Local, said.

Charlene Li, analyst for Forrester Research, said Microsoft had one-upped Google and other competitors with the bird's-eye view, which none of the rivals have. "It's a really nice system," Li said.

Google, which Microsoft has identified as its top rival in search and online advertising, has also combined road maps, driving directions and aerial views to help people find and get to locations. However, its satellite images provide only one view looking straight down at a location.

Microsoft plans to make money on the new service, which is set to launch on Thursday, by selling contextual advertising. For example, if someone searches for hotels in a particular town, they will get a Yellow Page listing, as well as a clearly marked list of sponsored links. Google uses a similar business model.

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