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.
Some selected highlights from the announcement:
Live Search and Virtual Earth Enhancements:
- Better driving directions. The new Live Search offers more accurate and easy-to-use driving directions, including dynamic rerouting of directions based on real-time traffic information, one-click directions that allow drivers to get only essential directions to their destination with no starting point needed, and inline hints that tell drivers if they have gone too far based on local landmarks.
- Expanded visualization and 3-D coverage. Coverage of bird’s-eye and 3-D imagery has been increased to cover 80 percent of the U.S. population. In addition, nearly 200 complete cities are available in 3-D, and customers can now combine views of 3-D imagery with Live Search’s unique 45-degree bird’s-eye images …
- Improved local content including user-generated content.The new local search capabilities in Live Search include not only a broad set of expert sources but also broad access to user-generated content from Live Search and from across the entire Web, through searchable user-created collections and Keyhole Markup Language (KML) support.
- Virtual Earth platform updates.
- Live Search for Windows Mobile with voice input. The updated Live Search for Windows Mobile 5.0 and 6.0 will be available for download for free on Tuesday, Oct. 16, and now includes voice input (beta version), gas prices, and hours of operation for businesses. The service can also use Global Positioning System (GPS) data on GPS-enabled phones to provide location-aware local search for customers.
- Live Search 411. Jointly developed with Tellme Networks Inc., acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, a new toll-free number will be available for anyone using any kind of phone to access the power of Live Search. Users can simply dial (800) CALL-411 (800-225-5411) and say the city and state, then ask for the business or business category to hear a list of options. Users say, “Connect me,” to instantly connect to the business. Cell phone users can ask for a text message with a link to a map of the business.
- Live Search for use with BlackBerry Devices. Live Search designed for use with BlackBerry devices is in beta and will be available for download for free on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
The important thing for most of the Live Search enhancements is how well integrated they are with the mainline search since other than a few geeky tire kickers, no one is going to dig them out specifically. On the other hand, the mobile voice input and 411 features are requirements if Microsoft wants to keep up with and hope to pass Google for mobile users (e.g. Google voice 411). It’ll be interesting see user reactions as they roll out.