Well well, the cat’s out of the bag so to speak. Microsoft was supposed to be releasing Virtual Earth on Monday but you can get to it today.
So…I thought I’d play around with it a bit and see how it compares to Google Maps. After playing around with it for a few minutes I have to say that I’m somewhat impressed. And by somewhat impressed I mean that it actually 1/2 works inside Safari and actually located my home address properly. Other than that I can state that it’s a disappointment.
First of all let’s start with locating my home address. MSN Virtual Earth has a feature called “Locate Me”. Unfortunately this feature is only available for users of Windows/IE and doesn’t appear to be supported otherwise. This is annoying but not a showstopper.
Ok so there is an address bar to manually put in my home address. Let’s see what we get. I enter 2601 Hollywood Drive, Arlington Texas 76013 (Note to psychos, nuts and/or stalkers I have guns.) This located my address without any issues. And hey, bonus, it’s accurate.
Now compare that image with the one from Google Maps and you’ll notice that they are a pretty fair comparision. I do prefer the Google Maps Interface/Layout a bit better but that may just be because I’m used to it.
Now lets dig down to the satellite imagery of the same address.
MSN’s Virtual Earth
Earth to Virtual Earth….wtf?? Black and White? You do realize that computers today can render and display colors can’t you? On top of it being in black and white it’s a crappy image/resolution and I can’t tell if that truly is my residence. The only somewhat redeeming quality is that the street names are mapped to the satellite imagery and to get that in Google Maps you have to use the hybrid mode.
Google Maps Hybrid Mode
Ok one last thing to test are driving directions from my house to: 1) A relatives house that I frequent often where the best route to take is via back roads. 2) A friends house that I frequent often who lives in a subdivision less than a year old.
Both Virtual Earth and Google Maps located the end addresses without any problems and both gave me fairly identical driving directions to both addresses. Virtual Earth however integrated the directions into Microsoft Map Point which rather defeats the purpose in my opinion. It would be like Google Maps integrating into Mapquest or Maps on Us. It should all be one tool with transparent integration.
Conclusion While I do think that Virtual Earth can compete and eventually will compete with Google Maps at this point I do believe that Google Maps is the better tool to use due to the reasons I point out above.