MSN Virtual Earth

Microsoft is expending on local search experience and lately signed up a 5 years agreement with Orbimage Incorporated, provider of geospatial imagery products and services. Code name for this new feature is �MSN virtual earth� and was introduced to the public on May 24th in the Map point section of the giant software firm�s website.

Orbimage is providing high resolution satellite images since 1995 and more recently launched Orbview-3 to provide commercial clients as well as the US government with its products and services. The agreement between Microsoft and its new partner would run for 5 years at least. MSN would incorporate Virtual earth feature under its local search option and provide online searchers with that incredibly quality tool. Black and white and color definition by Orbview-3 would be respectively 1 meter to 4 meters.

Such feature incorporated into a major search engine would become a useful tool for end consumer as well as for businesses. Realtors for example would be able to show prospects neighborhood details even without visiting any property and therefore increase efficiency with their clients.

Earlier this year Google launched a beta version of Google maps which immediately became a success while integrated into multiple online applications and some search engine result pages.
A couple of weeks ago MSN uncovered part of its strategy to counterstrike competitor Google, local search now features maps and medium quality aerial views.
This new partnership agreement would also allow Microsoft to use satellite images with standard mapping application Map point. The experience acquired by Bill Gates� firm developing mapping software could give a decisive advantage to MSN over Google in this area.

Third major player on the market, Yahoo must be trying to figure out how to compete in the arena. If the local search trend persists in a high ROI for search engines, unless purchasing a geospatial imaging company Yahoo�s credibility might be seriously at stake. While still under contract with MSN, Orbimage would launch in late 2007 Orbview-5, which promises to provide the unprecedented image definition of 0.41 meters.

Fight for accurate local search experience is only starting but the increased interest and investment on the battlefield should provide a broad range of new useful features available to all consumers and further opportunities to online marketers.

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