updated 06:05 pm EST, Wed December 2, 2009
Microsoft expands Bing Maps
Microsoft today caught up to Google in a significant way by expanding Bing's search features, particularly for maps. A beta of Silverlight version of Bing Maps now includes a more fully developed Streetside view that, like Google's Street View, shows on-the-ground panorama photos of mapped-out locations with road overlays and the ability to navigate through in-world clicks. Bing's approach, however, stitches photos together in perspective-correct 3D and now has an app gallery that can merge geolocated data into the street-level look, such as Twitter feeds or local blogs.
It additionally brings an enhanced Bird's Eye view that uses 3D models within the existing view to give a look at urban areas and natural landscapes. Photosynth galleries, simpler driving directions, weather and other features have also been added.
The full experience needs a browser that can use Silverlight, including non-Microsoft browsers like Firefox or Safari. An AJAX version provides compatibility for other sites but loses much of the new functionality.
At the same time, Microsoft has also said it has developed a better Windows Mobile search app for Bing. While it shares a similarity with Google Mobile App in supporting voice commands for searches, it has quick auto location finding with map directions and the same focus on answers over pure results. Other apps are coming, but Microsoft has so far only delivered web-based access to iPhone users.