Starting May 24, Microsoft's Live Local online mapping feature will let users share maps and other location information directly from Live Messenger, the new version of Microsoft's popular MSN Messenger.
Live Local is also available directly from Microsoft's Outlook Calendar, an office computer desktop staple. Users must first download and install some freely available software.
The "Live" moniker refers to beta versions of Microsoft's popular Web services, so changes to these features are ultimately very important to Microsoft.
With the latest upgrades to Live, Microsoft is trying to use the strength of its ubiquitous office and consumer computer desktop software brands as a draw. That'll surely serve as an advantage over Google, which has very little office desktop software to speak of.
The goal of all the maneuvering is more traffic, which for Microsoft translates to a larger share of the estimated $13.8 billion to be spent this year on Internet advertising.
It remains to be seen if this will help Microsoft's ailing mapping facet. Live Local is No. 4, in terms of audience size, out of all online travel/maps providers, according to Hitwise, an Internet intelligence firm.
Internet traffic analysis provider Hitwise reports that the category is dominated by MapQuest, with 56.3 percent of the audience; Yahoo Maps is second with 20.5 percent and Google Maps is third with 9.5 percent. The combined audience of Windows Live Local and another Microsoft mapping feature is fourth, with 4.3 percent.
Local Live, Version 3, also has a new social networking aspect, in which customers create lists of favorite landmarks and locations so they can be shared with others, or recalled later via e-mail or Microsoft's MSN Spaces self-publishing feature.
It also now features maps and businesses in Canada and the United Kingdom. The Outlook add-on is available in only a few markets for now.