Microsoft, Google Take Maps in New Direction

After lagging behind Google Maps, Microsoft this week unveiled an overhaul of its Bing Maps Web site that supplements the traditional bird’s eye view of cities and other locations with rich photographs on the ground. In addition to the street-level images pioneered by Google Maps that let people “move” along the roads pictured, Microsoft’s technology stitches together images uploaded by users into three-dimensional photo collages. The technology, called Photosynth, lets users post on Bing Maps interior shots of everything from restaurants to museums to hotels.The Microsoft technology and similar efforts by Google are further signs that online maps are evolving from a digital version of an atlas into something more akin to a videogame. Both Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., and Google, Mountain View, Calif., are experimenting with a variety of tools that make hunting for locations far more immersive. Having better maps gives Microsoft and Google more than just bragging rights. It also potentially gives companies who use their Internet maps—such as hotels and restaurants—a new tool for attracting business and standing out from competitors.


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