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Microsoft and Google Fighting for the Skies 278

Robert writes "Today's SF Chronicle has an article about Microsoft and Google's new battle for the skies. Both companies now have similar products that combine maps and satellite photos. Roads and driving directions can be superimposed on imagery on both products." From the article: "Google and Microsoft are engaged in a major battle over Internet users. Each has unveiled a series of features designed to keep users loyal and grab a bigger share of the lucrative search-engine market. Yahoo, in Sunnyvale, also is a major competitor, though its executives have yet to express any interest in aerial images. offers street- level photographs of businesses through its search engine. "
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Microsoft and Google Fighting for the Skies

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  • I'm absolutely shocked by the way Microsoft took someone else's idea and co-opted it to be their own. just shocked.

  • Canada (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gregmac ( 629064 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:24PM (#13168707) Homepage
    Too bad MSN doesn't work in Canada at all, while Google works great. I do find it kind of funny that "Virtual Earth" is USA-only.. ;)

    That said, MSN has hi-res images of my cottage (which is right on the border, and only JUST made it in) while Google only has low-res images of that area.
    • Canada? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:40PM (#13168944)
      Yeah, but that's Canada, man. Do they even need maps? I mean... is there anything *to* map? Other than moose migration vectors, barren tundric wastelands, scattered impact crater remnants and the Molson brewing plant, what the hell else is there worth getting a map to?

      Hey, I'm teasing! Calm down!

      • what the hell else is there worth getting a map to?

        Well, there's this []

      • Re:Canada? (Score:3, Funny)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 )

        Yeah, but that's Canada, man. Do they even need maps? I mean... is there anything *to* map? Other than moose migration vectors, barren tundric wastelands, scattered impact crater remnants and the Molson brewing plant, what the hell else is there worth getting a map to?

        Yes, but it's extremely valuable to know just exactly how much more barren expanse of nothing is left on your journey.

        Sometimes friends will give directions to their houses like "travel 59.8 km through the tundra on this vector, turn left

      • Re:Canada? (Score:3, Funny)

        by falser ( 11170 )
        Canada does have a highway. It's intelligently named the "Trans-Canada Highway". It makes giving directions to different cities very easy: "East" or "West".
    • offers street- level photographs of businesses through its search engine

      Nifty idea. It'd be great if this could be used to send Spammers photos of their businesses, or maps to their houses when they Spam us.

      Nothing more. No threats, no other action, just a simple photo of thier home or business sent right to their e-mail account or FAX machine.
  • Funny, (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pxtl ( 151020 )
    Doesn't everybody still just use MapQuest? google maps only gets used when I need an actual map - but I still stick to MapQuest for directions.
    • I still use MapQuest, simply because Google Maps has a bad habit of not being entirely accurate with addresses and directions

      • You're kidding, right? I used to have to use MapQuest a lot for my job, and about 40% of the directions I downloaded had significant errors in them. Fortunately, most of them were east to spot (for example, being directed to turn right (south), when you were previously going west), but they still were confusing, and some errors were significant enough to render the directions worthless.

        Granted, this was several years ago...I don't know whether or not they've improved, since I now use Google maps almost e
      • I find Google maps can't even find numbered streets very well. I think the mapquest algorithm for finding addresses is still more refined than google's.

        I can't find quite a few addresses still in Google maps, and not only that, and I also find Mapquest is more current than Google. I moved into a new development, and Mapquest at least will recognize and find the address. Google maps just pukes. Google has trouble finding even my fiancee's parent's house, which is over 30 yrs old. She lives on xxxx E.X
    • Re:Funny, (Score:2, Interesting)

      I've hated mapquest for years, their maps are small, nasty, and slow to scroll about. I'd rather look at a roadmap and pick a path than use them. In that regard, google maps (or this new MSN map thingy) are extremely nice, since I can figure out where to go, and switch to satellite at turns to pick out landmarks.

      The MSN one does have some impressive, albeit colorless, images. Google should try and get their sources to fill in the low-res areas in their maps (which I think have higher quality where they
    • but I still stick to MapQuest for directions.

      Even though I typically use autorouting on my GPS, I find that entering a request for directions on Google Maps to be far easier than clicking links and farting around on Mapquest (and others).

      "55124 To 16 6th St South, 55402" is a ton easier to get directions than tabbing through multiple text boxes. YMMV.
    • I like Google maps interface, but I've tried using their directions a couple of times and I've been a big disappointed.

      However, I actually prefer Expedia Maps directions to MapQuest. I always have. I don't like the interface as much, nor do I get the helpful icons by each turn, but the directions have normally been better. I've tested this both by taking both sets of directions with me and by checking them against my experiences driving places. Expedia might not be better, but it's definitely better for m

    • MOD UP.

      Mapquest is still much better at directions for me, as well as driving time estimates. Google has just been plain wrong before. Also, a trip from Georgia to Virginia was estimated to 11.5 hours from google, and 8.5 from mapquest. It actualy took 9 hours with a 45 minute stop for food. Typically I'll use both, but mapquest still seems to work better. Anyone care to comment on the msn stuff since I've never used that?
    • I've had bad experiences with MapQuest in the Chicago west suburbs (Fermilab area)... Directions to places that just simply weren't there when I reached the end (for instance a car repair place that MapQuest claimed was in the middle of what turned out to be a residential neighboorhood) or instructions to turn on streets that don't exist, that sort of thing. I haven't tried google maps here, since I've pretty well gotten used to the area by now, but MapQuest was horrible. And I've heard from other reside
    • I think everybody I know uses google these days. Of the people I know, I think I'm the only one who ever got anywhere using mapquest without getting completely lost, and that was due to figuring out the ways it was likely to mess up.

      Google maps doesn't give better directions, but you can actually follow the route on the map and look at the turns, so you have some chance of recognizing the places when you're there.

      At least, this is true of New England, which has a lot of confusing roads (like ones []which be
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:25PM (#13168716)
    sweet, I hope it's somewhere over San Diego.. that place is a hellhole and could use a few fighter jets raining death over them...
  • Hmmm.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by slapout ( 93640 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:25PM (#13168722)
    ....wonder when we'll see the beta of "Google Flight Simulator"....
  • msn maps sux (Score:3, Insightful)

    by poison_reverse ( 647609 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:26PM (#13168733)
    the satellite images they are using are sometimes 10 years old or more! Google's images are very recent and accurate. Nice try Micrsoft but google has you beat on this one.
    • Re:msn maps sux (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Momoru ( 837801 )
      Actually, they share a lot of the same images. All the most high res images are mainly from the USGS, and Microsoft and Google are using the exact same images (I looked up my building new Washington DC, and the exact 4 cars are in the parking lot in both). In some cases Microsoft's are newer, in some cases Google (keyhole's) are newer. In a lot of the cases that matter, they are exactly the same.
    • Re:msn maps sux (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Goose In Orbit ( 199293 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:59PM (#13169156)
      According to The Register [] MS still has the Twin Towers in all their finery (but Apple HQ seems not to have been built yet)
  • Since Google's motto is "do no evil", and Microsoft wants the home market, I guess Yahoo! will have to "settle" for porn images.

    Gee, in that case I KNOW who'll make more money off their image search! AND have the most loyal customers ...

    • Since Google's motto is "do no evil", and Microsoft wants the home market, I guess Yahoo! will have to "settle" for porn images.

      1. What is evil about porn?
      2. GIS already lets me browse porn.
      3. If you're right, though, I can't think of a more appropriate company name for browsing porn.
  • by Kisil ( 900936 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:29PM (#13168788)
    Word on the streets is Microsoft is planning an innovative news filtering application that will bring content from multiple sources into one easy-to-read page. Microsoft also has alleged plans for an innovative desktop search application that will allow users fast and easy access to content on their own machines.

    Both features due early in 2009. No word yet on whether these features will be supported for non-microsoft browsers.
  • by PepeGSay ( 847429 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:29PM (#13168791)
    I've implemented mapping solutions for large vendor applications and the business benefits for it are awesome when it is implemented properly. The major impediment was the multiple thousand dollar cost. Web solutions allow the data holder to centralize the data, update it more often and fix issues faster. Googles *and* Mircrosoft's work on allowing you to overlay custom data is brilliant when you consider that Google maps can now be a service within an application architecture. Microsoft is not coopting or stealing Google's idea, far from it. This concept and its use in software is probably 20 years old and it has been becomeing more and more mainstream in applications. It is just being brought to the masses now.
    • This concept and its use in software is probably 20 years old...

      I recall that whilst working for my local city council in 15 years ago I was asked to write a program that could transcribe the altitude information in topographical maps so it could be used in the analysis and design of traffic systems. This was a replacement for the previous version that was a few years old, so I'd say the estimate of 20 years is fair, possibly even a little low.

      For the record, the system was written in GWBasic and use

    • Yes, I remember when was in beta around 5 years ago(back before *beta* was cool) and a friend of mine used it to check property lines on a rural piece of land he intended to purchase...

      Microsoft had chosen to keep it a closed, fee-based service, and it subsequently was a bit stifled in development and acceptance.

      All Google did was open it up and keep it free, and it seems to be more widespread.

      Of the two approaches, Microsoft prefers to make money on its own terms as they have
  • I wonder... (Score:2, Funny)

    by donleyp ( 745680 )
    how long it will take Microsoft to come up with a way to monopolize the search engine market and cost us another $10 billion [].
  • Pictures of this-or-that place? so let's see: google and MS offer images of the Earth, Yahoo (a little cheaper and crummier) would like to offer aerial images, Amazon (even cheaper and crummier) offers photos of businesses, etc... I guess that makes (no, no link for understandable reasons) a pioneer in the images-on-the-intarweb-nobody-really-cares-about market...
  • FTFA

    Aerial photographs used by Microsoft and Google can be outdated. On Microsoft's service, an overhead view of Apple Inc.'s headquarters in Cupertino showed only one building instead of the sprawling campus of 11 buildings.

    Now why would they want us to think Apple only had 1 building.. hrrrmmmmmmmm?!?!?

    • Now why would they want us to think Apple only had 1 building

      It's not Microsoft's doing.

      I read in alt.conspiracy that Apple is working on stealth shingle/roofing technology.

      When this tech comes out, I'm gonna make me a hat out of that material.
  • Quality... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:36PM (#13168898) Homepage Journal
    Both Google Maps and MSN Virtual Earth are supposedly "beta" products, but MSN VE looks more like a proof-of-concept than a beta. Compare equivalent views of Long Island Sound:

    MSN Virtual Earth []

    Google []

    It's not as if the Sound, Long Island's North Shore, or the Connecticut Shoreline areas haven't been photographed countless times by state and Federal agencies. I'm surprised that Microsoft exposed something that looks so slapdash to the public.

    Oh, wait...

    • Re:Quality... (Score:2, Informative)

      by tOaOMiB ( 847361 )
      Then again, let's focus in on the actualy nearby city of Bridgeport:

      MSN Virtual Earth []

      Google Maps []
      • Re:Quality... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by andycal ( 127447 )
        It is hit and miss. For my house MSN is better, for my office Google is MUCH better. For one thing google has use color images which tell you more. MSN's appear to be IR images which are not as interesting to look at. Google's big advantage is closeups of the whole globe Pyramids [] Great wall of China [].

        MSN will not zoom in beyond the general globe image on these areas.

        Also, for me MSN keeps failing to load images, I have to move away and back seveal times to view a whole page of images.
    • It's not as if the Sound, Long Island's North Shore, or the Connecticut Shoreline areas haven't been photographed countless times by state and Federal agencies. I'm surprised that Microsoft exposed something that looks so slapdash to the public.
      It's not as if the missing area has anything but open water - none of the shore is missing as the OP implies.
    • Compare equivalent views...

      The views are not equivalent. Here [] is the equivalent Microsoft view, which is comparable in detail and design to the Google image.

      • Sure, sometimes MS gives more detail than Google, and presumably sometimes the reverse is true. But the point is that when MS doesn't have the detail, it falls down badly.

    • On the other hand, compare Ewing, NE (where my wife is from) on MSN Virtual Earth [] v/s Google [].

      Try zooming in and out a little on both to see my point. Not only does searching for Ewing, NE on Google center it several miles SouthWest of where Ewing actually is, the satellite photos are virtually useless.

      My biggest gripes with the MSN service are that it breaks my browsers back buttons and that the URL is not easy to type or remember.

      It's clear that both have a ways to go before they will be where we want t
    • "I'm surprised that Microsoft exposed something that looks so slapdash to the public."

      That's one trend I've been seeing with MSN related products. Everything from their latest MSN messenger to their search engine, to their IE tabs toolbar to this. They all look like a weekend hack.
    • Re:Quality... (Score:4, Informative)

      by MrScience ( 126570 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:44PM (#13171673) Homepage
      Right. And comparing the space needle yields different [] results [] (MSN has higher detailed imagery). They are both in beta.
  • That's easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:42PM (#13168970)
    Use Google to see where you are and where you're going.

    Use MSN to see where you grew up before the freeway went through.

  • Yahoo, in Sunnyvale, also is a major competitor, though its executives have yet to express any interest in aerial images.

    Of course they are...
  • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:44PM (#13168987) Homepage Journal
    Funny to see them using CSS extensions that only work in Gecko based browsers like Firefox.

    I would love to figure out how to make opacity work for IE. I see them doing it and use code identical to theirs but mine doesn't work. Is there some trick to using the IE-only filter attribute in CSS?

    Of course if they'd just support the CSS3 opacity attribute in IE like Firefox does that'd work just fine too.. I'd be happy with decent CSS2, Javascript, and DOM support though.
    • opacity in mozilla, IE...

      In the css...
      -moz-opacity:.7; /* for mozilla */
      opacity:.7; /* CSS way */
      filter:alpha(opacity=70); /* IE way *?

      For opacity to work in IE, you need to define a width or a height for the element you're using the opacity on.
  • Notably, AOL is also in the race with .... Mapquest. Even though that hasn't received much of an upgrade recently, they've got to be working on something and mapquest is still the 800 lb Gorilla. (Well 250 lb anyway). The threats are just too obvious not to respond to.

    With AOL betting the company on free advertisement supported content (see BETA these days), I'm sure an updated Mapquest is also on the way.

    Interesting enough, Mapquest had satelite data along with road data a few years ago, but it d
  • by papasui ( 567265 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:52PM (#13169078) Homepage
    I like the maps available with both services and have extended Google Map API into some pretty neat tools. I don't see a ton of use out of the current imagery offered by either service though. In both cases the resolution offered makes it hard to identify most places. Is it just for the 'cool' factor or are there really significant uses for it? I'm assuming there must be and I just don't know what they are. To me the street maps are 100x more useful, which is also the reason I don't understand the use of Google Earth. Sure I think it's very cool but why doesn't it include the street maps, and what is the use of putting the 3D shape of buildings on it? I'm being 100% serious, someone please enlighten me.
  • wow this site is just a complete piece of crap.... i went to 3 locations that i am very familiar with in california, las vegas and virginia, and all of them were so out of date as to be useless. The photos have to be at least 5 years old and in the las vegas area, completely misses a huge freeway. I guess they have the excuse of it being beta, but this is very rough right now. Also, the load times when you zoom in seem to be a lot slower than with google. Can anyone else back this up?
  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:56PM (#13169121)
    OK, I can forgive if the some of the stuff is a little out of date, but this is just ridiculous.

    MS Virtual Earth zoomed all the way out []

  • Funny similarity between the two-- they both sanitize the area around the White House. The rooftops of the WH and adjacent buildings are *awfully* pristine. Also Congressional Hill is fuzzed quite a bit.

    Harmless I guess but not terribly detrimental to the bad guys trying to find these places.


    Appears to be quite slow or at least slower than Google Maps... given that I run LINUX Mozilla heavily through an X server and Google Maps readily works this way... whereas VirtualEarth from Microsoft is dog slow... I can only conclude that from a design standpoint, Google is a superior product.

    That aside, it is yet another shining example of Microsoft copying a leader and not innovating in the slightest... why do they bother? Really, BillG, Steve et al why? Given that your bread and b
  • Competition? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sierpinski ( 266120 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @04:02PM (#13169195)
    In most other realms, competition is viewed as a good thing. It seems that with Microsoft (or any other large software company) that they want to completely squash the opposition.

    Where did that land them before? In court for an anti-trust lawsuit. (Which seems to have had very little, if any, impact on them as a company. How many billions of dollars busiess do they do in a year?)

    Competition should be the motivation to strive for excellence, not to hit your competition over the head with a giant iron hammer that still has yet to be patched with SP2.
    • Re:Competition? (Score:3, Insightful)

      In most other realms, competition is viewed as a good thing. It seems that with Microsoft (or any other large software company) that they want to completely squash the opposition.

      To be fair, competition is only seen as a good thing by the people being competed over. Almost any business owner with any sense wants to be the best, and only, at what he or she does.
      • That's not true. Competition is good for businesses that ARE GOOD AT COMPETING.

        Without competition, companies often rest on their laurels.

        Competition is only hated by monopolies and companies that can't compete.
  • The only feature that this Microsoftie thing has that beats the Goog is the zoom in and out. It is just a gimmick, of course, but it makes it easier to see keep track of things as you change resolutions. The feature I am looking for is a topo map layer. For awhile there was a greasemonkey script that added USGS topo maps to Google Maps, and I was in map heaven. The topo maps have so much more information on them, including buildings, park boundries, etc, that the Google street map layer doesn't have. But Go
  • Maps. Wow, that was exciting 5 years ago. Search? Nice, they are fighting a battle Google already won years ago. E-mail? I have one, thank you. Portals? People actually use those, when every major site offer a RSS feed? Honestly, why do we care? What's so impressing with all this? Sure, Google Maps is cool in a sense, but is it totally cool? No. G-mail is better than previous email services. Is it totally exciting, as in all other email services look pale in comparision? No. Is it just me, or are these 20 y
  • We've got Google Maps for Wifi Spots [], but when are we gonna get one to map out the nearest Strip Joints?
  • Anyone who chooses to trust MS deserves what will happen to them. MS has a track record of betraying every ally, and backstabbing every friend.

    That said, Google may not be ultimately trustworthy, but given the stated choice, I know which I'd choose.
  • When I saw the google map thing sure I thought it was neat like everybody else but i also thought it was of limited usefulness. Then when msn rolled out their version I really got confused. Can someone explain to me what all the hoopla is with this virtual map stuff? I mean, what does it *do* exactly? Is it strictly educational from a geography prespective or what?
  • Except that MS Virtual Earth can't give you driving directions. You need to at least look at whatever the hell you're writing about before posting crap on slashdot. There's no "battle", Google made Mic
  • Google has a mapping API [] that lets webmaster's create mapping applications on their own sites using google's massive map server resources. Already a very lively developer community [] has grown around it. Some sites have even built complete GIS systems [] on it. Microsoft's virtual earth also has an API []. that looks very usable. I think that the competition between these two giants will only bring good things to us all.
  • The problem with both of them is that they can show you exactly WHERE you are, but they can't tell you WHY.
  • they consume like 500 pounds of pasta per week! (can't find the link to the article)

  • When google maps start giving useful directions that send you where you asked, then there will be some map competition between the two.

    Otherwise I prefer the GOOG offering.
  • Hmm that's funny, the arial photography looks exactly the same as the 1m photos at [], except with addressing by street addr instead of lat/long or UTM. With google earth (or I get both capabilities, plus color arial/sat photography. Personally I'd rather just use USAPhotoMaps [] to download the terraserver topo/photo images and google earth for street maps/directions and arial/sat color photos.

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake