I've written extensively about how Google is improving Google Maps, adding new layers on a weekly basis.
Microsoft is getting help from its partners to boost the value proposition of Bing Maps. Specifically, Weather.com, which uses Bing Maps over Google Maps, has created an interesting feature to deliver its weather-oriented maps to users.
The Futures feature, based on a technology called TruPoint, aims to play digital weatherman by overlaying a forecast prediction on a Bing Map embedded in the Website. You can check it out here.
TruPoint provides localized weather forecasts down to a 1-square-mile area. The program updates every 15 minutes for a 6-hour period and is available in the continental United States.
See here how it is raining in parts of Seattle, Wash., as I write this post:
Using the TruPoint button, which works like a media player, including play, pause, rewind and fast forward, I skip ahead to the map for a couple hours later, which shows no rain in the same Seattle map zone:
Will this be accurate? Who knows? It's Seattle, after all. If it works, it's a great concept.
Chris Pendleton, Bing Maps technical evangelist for Microsoft, noted in a blog post that Weather.com uses Adobe Flash (not, ahem, Silverlight) to create a transparent tile overlay with the predictive weather data models:
"They'll load the overlays as individual layers, then turn one off and turn the next one on -- very much how animating a cartoon is done. So, layer one has a picture of the predictive weather model over a specific region; layer two has it a few miles from that as time would move the storms. So, they'll turn off layer 1, then turn on layer 2, etc. They'll do this for all of the respective zoom layers in Bing Maps so you can see the data at many levels of fidelity."
From a developer's perspective, that must be neat, but I don't care so much about that as that this program really works and is useful for me.
Also, I wonder if some Microsofties find it galling that Weather.com uses Flash and not Silverlight the same way that Apple fanboys look at Windows PC users.
Will this make me switch from using Google Maps to Bing Maps? No -- I'm very invested in Google Maps' new and emerging features -- but I've always used Weather.com to get my weather updates.
TruPoint on Bing Maps just made my weather-browsing experience that much better. Thank you!