In an interestingly timed announcement, Microsoft turned its MSN Virutal Earth beta live at about midnight eastern time on the first day of the ESRI International User Conference.
Microsoft shared these goodies in a note to the press:
Aerial View with Labels: Displays the aerial imagery with an overlay of road networks and point-of-interest information that is correctly geo-referenced on the image.
"Locate Me": People can quickly find their present location and then explore and discover the area around them.The 'Locate Me' link activates Microsoft Location Finder which uses WiFi access points or reverse IP to determine a person's location and then launch MSN Virtual Earth map of that location.
"Permalink" Control: "Permalink" captures a screenshot of everything open in Virtual Earth - the map view location, search results, scratchpad - represented by a Web link that can be bookmarked, e-mailed or copied to the Microsoft Windows clipboard.
Community site: A "Community" button in the navigation bar calls up a Web site that encourages community involvement and enables community feedback about MSN Virtual Earth.
Developer Resource Center: Accessible from the Community site as well as directly here, the Developer Resource Center is a non-Microsoft-controlled Web site where developers can download the MSN Virtual Earth Map Control functionality as well as find other information to help them start creating Web content that incorporates the service.
Yellow and White page directories: MSN Virtual Earth incorporates licensed yellow page and white page directories to enable users to find high quality yellow and white page listings.These directories have been incorporated into the MSN search index so that users can query the information in rich, flexible ways.
One of the more exciting and written about datasets, oblique images from Pictometry will be available in a release available in the fall.All the players who've suggested they'll be in the ring in recent months are now going head to head.Is it hype or will these offerings play out not just for users, but for the profit-seeking companies behind them? Stay tuned.