MSN plans to refresh its map-based search technology every quarter. Mac support and a new developer API are on tap for the fall.
MSN released a first beta of its MSN Virtual Earth technology over the weekend.
The beta integrates MSN local search results with satellite imagery provided by TerraServer-USA, which was developed by Microsoft Research, along with MSNs MapPoint functionality.
Interested testers can access the beta version of the service at virtualearth.msn.com.
MSN Virtual Earth features include:
Satellite map views on full-bleed maps that provide a continuous view in Internet Explorer;
Multiple local search capabilities in a single view and display of multiple search results;
Ability to select specific search results and store them in a new Scratchpad feature. Users also can post their search results directly from the Scratchpad to their MSN Spaces blog, or send them in an e-mail message to any account.
Ability to bookmark search results and other data posted to the Scratchpad as a "permalink," which can be stored and/or e-mailed to others.
MSNs Virtual Earth technology is a direct competitor to Google Inc.s Google Earth, a desktop client slated to replace Googles current Keyhole software.
To use MSN Virtual Earth, which currently shows U.S.-based satellite images only, users must first download the Microsoft Location Finder client application. It is this piece of software that turns Wi-Fi-enabled PCs into "location-determining devices" without the addition of any separate hardware.
Read the full story on Microsoft Watch: MSN Virtual Earth Goes to Beta