As an unbiased, open-minded technologist/publisher of one of the larger newsletters that follow GIS, I can say with assurity that after seeing yet another demonstration of Google Maps and MSN Virtual Earth at Where 2.0, they do pan and zoom very well. Next.
Basically, the smoke that has filled the map rooms recently is essentially pan and zoom. Yes, MSN Virual Earth will pan and zoom to some very cool imagery and local information but if that’s all that is does, I’ll wait for the next big thing. Maybe it will draw buffer zones next.
I’m not just being flip. In the consumer space, this is revolutionary stuff. In traditional GIS circles, this is barely evolutionary. Adena Schutzberg and I have commented recently that traditional desktop mapping systems are too function-filled. Do five things well and you’ve got a product that will sell. The functionality that Google and Microsoft have introduced through their portals is primarily visualization of rich data sets. Microsoft is selling an "immersive experience" with MSN Virtual Earth (VE) but although the "wow" factor of maps and imagery are "sizzle", the real "steak" is in the data that will be available through VE that is not just the Pictometry oblique visuals, but the associated "yellow page" data if you will.
So, these new mapping portals on the block are doing two things very well. Ok, where are the other three?