Microsoft has integrated a handful of new features into Bing Maps, in yet another salvo in the application's long-running battle with Google Maps. The additions include a Taxi Fare Calculator and a World of Football app that displays soccer scores from around the world and zooms into stadiums. In addition, Bing Maps is now rendered more colorfully, with dynamic information that pops up whenever the mouse hovers over a particular location.
The more colorful and detailed maps are accessible only by downloading the latest version of Silverlight. That newfound color and shading includes "de-saturation on zoom [that] allows more continuous transition to photographic material" and "lower cognitive load-less data/clearer details," according to an Aug. 3 posting on the Bing Community blog. In addition, the updated maps improve street detail in several international territories, including Central and Eastern Europe and Asia.
"The Silverlight experience has a combination of both raster tiles and vector graphics rendered in the browser at run time," explains the blog posting, as a highly technological way of saying that Bing Maps now looks a lot prettier.
Bing Maps also features a handful of new apps. By opening the "Map Apps" tab on the bottom left of the Bing Maps screen and clicking on OpenStreetMap, users can access an open-source project that leverages crowd-sourcing to build geographical data into maps. Other new apps, including Taxi Fare Calculator, World of Football and a map of Microsoft's regional directors, are also accessible through that tab.
For the New York City area, at least, the Taxi Fare Calculator seems to give ballpark-correct amounts for the majority of tested routes.
Those who live in Seattle may take an interest in the new Seattle Issues app, which offers information on civic hiccups such as water main breaks and potholes. That app is apparently sponsored by SeeClickFix.com, which encourages "residents to become active citizens in taking care of and improving their city by seeing a non-emergency issue in their neighborhood, opening a ticket on the SCF site and commenting on when the issue is resolved."
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer insisted during the company's July 23 Financial Analyst Meeting that Bing was worth its sizable investment, despite lagging behind Google in overall market share.
"We're not confused. We've got a lot of work to do here," Ballmer told the assembled analysts. "We're not confused that investors see the big price tag to get into this business and say, 'What's the progress going to look like on that?'"
Microsoft's revenues for its Online Services division rose last quarter to $565 million, even as it faced a steepening quarterly loss of $696 million.
"So we're pushing ahead," Ballmer said. "I can't tell you that there's a point on the imminent horizon in which you can expect the business results to flip, but I can tell you to expect to continue to see really interesting work."