Microsoft and Google are natural rivals. They chase each other with such obvious one-upmanship that they almost make it look like fun. Until now, I think most would say Google has eclipsed Microsoft on nearly every front except maybe desktop operating systems (if only because Google doesn’t have one for desktops). To be sure, on the mobile front, Android only made WinMo’s shortcomings all the more glaring.
However, Microsoft’s release yesterday of an overhauled Bing Maps proves the software giant can still do some impressive stuff. If you haven’t tried the beta version of Bing Maps, you should. Imagine Google Earth but even more immersive. Bing Maps offers users 3D, birds-eye and street-level views of major metropolitan areas. Silverlight, Microsoft’s multimedia Web applications, renders these particular areas with amazing clarity, and in 3D, that rivals even Google Earth.
You can see where Microsoft is headed. Google’s success with Google Nav on the Droid has changed the course of mobile navigation in a matter of weeks. In fact, Google Maps has emerged as one of the most talked about features on the Motorola Droid.
If Microsoft is able to translate what it’s done with Bing Maps Beta onto a mobile phone, it may have something. Some would argue that a good mobile navigation program will never make or break a mobile OS. However, how many consumers spent upwards of $500 or more to purchase a standalone navigation unit? Heck, I have an iPhone, and I was still envious of the Droid’s street-level navigation feature.
It’s not even so much that Bing Maps is what it is, but rather that it comes right on the heels of Windows 7 for the desktop, which is already seeing the most positive reviews for any MS operating system in recent memory. And here comes Bing Maps Beta, which, dare I say it, is cutting-edge even when taking into account Google’s already impressive presence in the world of virtual mapping and navigation. Could Microsoft’s righting of the ship mean WinMo gets a facelift as well?
If Microsoft can successfully bring Bing Maps Beta, in all its desktop glory, to the mobile, WinMo developers could have a field day. If Microsoft is able to open up APIs that offer these kinds of rich mapping capabilities, it’s at least a step in the right direction for a mobile OS that has been wandering around for a very long time.