MS ups the ante vs Google Maps

Microsoft has announced some updates to thier Windows Live Local service (I really hate that name). Then enhancements include real-time traffic reporting and new social sharing tools. Here are the highlights:

  • Real-time traffic flow. Customizable driving directions are now even more useful with the addition of real-time traffic flow and incident reporting provided by This functionality will be available only in the U.S. release.
  • Collections. Social networking functionality allows customers to create lists of favorite landmarks and locations, attach personal photos and save them to a Scratchpad. Collections can be saved, recalled later, permalinked, and shared with friends and community in e-mail or through their MSN Spaces blog.
  • Integration with Windows Live Messenger. Sharing maps and location information from within Windows Live Messenger chats is easier. Users begin a sharing session from the Actions menu. People sharing a chat session can see and interact with the same Windows Live Local map and benefit from a shared mapping and local search experience.

But what’s really got me excited is the enhancements made to Virtual Earth. Over the weekend I toyed a bit with Virtual Earth and thier map control. I was impressed with the ease of development but underwhelmed with the features. Now with the announced enhancements I might have to take another look. Via Virtual Earth Developer Blog.

  • Place/Address lookups (Geocoding) With a simple new Find() method, you can easily add a Where box to your application to allow users to input addresses, cities/towns, zip codes, landmarks or other locations and quickly and easily pinpoint them on the map. Support for handling ambiguous addresses is included as well.
  • Driving Directions/Routing and Polylines Driving directions, routing and polylines. The new route methods allow developers to quickly enable driving directions from one location to another in their application. You also can create your own custom polylines for highlighting key information on maps and imagery.
  • Quick data-binding for GeoRSS Now, you can quickly a simply bind data to pushpins using the standard data format GeoRSS. Just point the control at your GeoRSS file or service and it will automatically manage the process of creating pushpins and pop-ups.
  • Public Collection layers Even easier than creating a GeoRSS file, you can bind a Windows Live Local public collection to the control. Just build a public collection of your favorite places in your local town or a listing of your business locations, drop the map control in your web page using the sample code in the SDK and point it to your collection voila, instant mashup.
  • Built in pushpins and pop-ups Now, you can quickly use our methods to create pushpins and pop-ups in the default style without having to design them yourselves. Of course, the very popular, simple methods for rolling your own are still there as well; so you have your choice from easy default styles to full look and feel control.

MS has also made available a pretty nice interactive SDK which should get you up and running with Virtural Earth. Original heads up via Scoble.