Google Inc. on
Tuesday launched in beta desktop software that combines
local search with satellite-based 3D views of places,
offering the service at no charge for consumers and a
beefier paid version for businesses.
which uses broadband streaming technology, shows an aerial
view of a user-requested location. The software can zoom
in from space-level close enough to see streets and buildings,
and overlays the search location on the picture.
The service includes
local search for finding businesses, residences, points
of interest and other places. Driving instructions are
also overlaid on the aerial view, and are available in
text format, which is printable. The view itself can be
tilted and rotated.
The new product
uses technology from Keyhole Corp., a digital-mapping
company that Google acquired last year. Keyhole, based
in Mountain View, Calif., has built a multi-terabyte database
of mapping information and images collected from satellites
and airplanes. Google sold the Keyhole 2 LT software package
Google is not
the first of its major rivals to combine aerial images
with local search. Microsoft Corp. last week started testing
on its MSN portal a service that enables consumers to
get directory information from Yellow and White pages,
corresponding street maps from Microsoft MapPoint and
digital aerial images supplied by TerraServer USA, a research
project operated by Microsoft.
competitor, Yahoo Inc., doesn't offer aerial views
with local search. But Gary Price of SearchEngineWatch.com
said that's probably just fine for the average consumer,
since aerial views don't add a lot of value when getting
directions from one location to another. A street map
or driving directions in text format is all that's needed.
But the Google
service is advanced enough to attract attention, which
adds to its marketing image of being a technology-focused
company that's always on the cutting edge, even when less
known companies, such as GlobeXplorer LLC, has offered
3D aerial views for years.
Google reinforce its brand," Price said. "It
keeps people talking about Google. It keeps the buzz going."
And buzz has been
a significant contributor to Google's success in luring
consumers. As of early June, the company's share of the
U.S. search market reached an all-time high of 52 percent,
more than double its closest competitor Yahoo and more
than four times that of MSN.
helps Google in the area of local search, which holds
strong revenue potential for search engines, experts say.
The reason is many web surfers look for products and services
near their home or in cities they're visiting, making
local search a favorite category among advertisers.
Google is offering
a Google Earth Plus service for $20 a year that has
additional features, including compatibility with global
positioning systems and the ability to import data and
make annotations. For businesses, there's a professional
version for $400 a year that offers high-resolution printing
and the ability to import data from geographic information
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