Last week Microsoft updated Live Search Maps and Virtual Earth 3D with a variety of new bells and whistles and this week launched a spiffy new Live Search News that inevitably drew comparisons to Google News which it somewhat resembles visually. However, my first thought on seeing them was wondering how they will stack up against Yahoo Maps and Yahoo News when the apparently inevitable acquisition takes place and the resulting “synergy” paring decisions are made.
My guess is that Virtual Earth 3D is safe by lack of comparable Yahoo product and Live Search Maps has a fighting chance of survival, but Live Search News will be shuttered almost immediately. (MSNBC.com’s news over at MSN will undoubtedly survive because of its unique heritage.) Kevin Johnson has told Microsoft’s online troops to stay focused, but it would be hard to believe that they are not looking over their shoulders.
Back in September, Microsoft unveiled some Live Search improvements at its Searchification event, but apparently that wasn’t all they had up their sleeve as today they announced more Live Search enhancements, directed mostly at local and mobile searchers.
The Battle of the 3D Maps between Google and Microsoft was joined today at the O’Reilly Where 2.0 Conference where each of the contenders introduced new 3D imagery features for their online mapping services.
Microsoft spiffed up Live Search Maps with photo-realistic 3-D aerial imagery of New York City and several other cities. (Note that the approved brand name is apparently now Microsoft, not Windows, Live Search Maps.) Meanwhile, Google introduced Google Maps Street View for a number of major US cities which allows you to “virtually explore city neighborhoods by viewing and navigating within 360-degree scenes of street-level imagery.” See this video or experiment for yourself.
I found both of these 3D offerings a trifle quirky, but amusing to fool with. The real question though is how well 3D imagery helps attract advertising dollars and that remains to be seen.
No good deed goes unpunished – Mapuche Indians in Chile are suing Microsoft for delivering Windows XP in their native language, Mapuzugun, without getting their permission. This is Microsoft’s Local Language Program which is supposed to sweeten up the locals.
Speaking of international relations – French MPs dump Windows for Linux, but Microsoft denies sinking a Linux project in Birmingham UK by slashing the price of Windows XP.
Also with a non-USA flavor – Google Sites (not including YouTube) edged out Microsoft Sites in October to become the most-visited Web property in the UK for the first time according to comScore.
And speaking of Google, Nicholas Carr spots Google CEO Eric Schmidt talking tough about open Internet services overtaking proprietary desktop software for office and other use. Coincidentally, Microsoft rebuts the idea.
Meanwhile in Windows Live Land, Windows Live Local has apparently had a stealth renaming to Live Search Maps. Similarly the often renamed Windows Live Search Center has been renamed to Windows Live Preview, but that’s OK since it seems to have been “indefinitely postponed.”
It’s OK if Microsoft’s Zune isn’t charging out of the gate, but Microsoft doesn’t need Zune PR like this:
Last Friday, the second-most watched clip on YouTube was about Microsoft’s long-expected, if not necessarily anticipated, attempt to take on Apple’s iPod digital music player. It showed a riff from late night talk show host Craig Ferguson who, if not quite a tech visionary, managed to strike a chord that resonated with some 225,000 online viewers.
“It has all the features of the iPod, only it’s not as good, and it’s five years too late,” Ferguson said. “The name just makes me want to buy it,” he added with clear sarcasm. “I think the market research guys said, ‘What’s going to appeal to the young people? Zune! It sounds good!’ I’m gonna go on MySpace: ‘Hey, the new Zune, it’s really crack-a-lackin!’”
Just how accurate Ferguson’s scenario is depends on how you define “crack-a-lackin.” If you mean, as Ferguson did, a bit of recent slang that already feels stale — well, that sort of applies to the Zune.
But the initial reactions to the Zune are negative enough that they will not only affect the holiday sales, they may also taint the brand for years to come.
The Ferguson video is here. However, Microsoft is getting help on the Zune from folks who are posting instructions on how to get the software running on Vista (it’s still unsupported, of course) and how to use it as a USB drive.
Meanwhile, the early report of problems with the new Xbox Live video sales was apparently an indication of widespread problems.
However, you’ll be glad to know that Business Week thinks the folks at Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division are The Soul Of A New Microsoft. Personally, I’d hold off on the beatification until some of their products actually make money.