Gates unveils MSN Virtual Earth - mapping and satellite service

Via Inside Microsoft:

" Jason Calacanis reports that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates just unveiled their Google Maps killer, complete with photos taken over cities at a 45-degree angle. The maps also include satellite photos, like Google’s, so Microsoft’s has two very different real-world mapping views to Google’s one. In addition, their product supports overlays, like Google Maps. More to come, so we’ll have to see if their product is actually better."

John Batelle:

"Gates is speaking now and showing stuff that looks an awful lot like Google Satellite/Earth. In fact, most of his talk was search related. He's integrated some very detailed views into his demo, down to much more resolution than Keyhole currently shows. "Local and mapping are coming together as one," he says."

Screenshots over at Search Engine Watch:

Directions Magazine:

"Microsoft contacted me via e-mail and then, moments later, by phone to hype its new announcement: the announcement of MSN Virtual Earth, part of the company's search tools. It "gives consumers a deeply immersive search experience where they see what it's like to be in a location and explore what they can do there." The discussion went on to note integrating many layers of data (weather, traffic, stores, etc. that have links for more information) including those generated by consumers.

...My first thought: Microsoft is nervous about Google's moves with Google Maps and Keyhole. My second thought was that it's very early in this "map portal local search" space, so its reasonable to expect many players to jump in until a winner emerges."

Business Week:

"Under an exclusive deal with a Rochester, N.Y.-based Pictometry International Corp., MSN Virtual Earth will offer photos that look down on buildings from a 45-degree angle.
The service will start out offering images in 15 or so major U.S. cities. More will be added later. Microsoft did not release a list of which cities would be featured"

Pictometry press release: (you can see some pics of Rhode Island in this PDF article)

"Primarily used by government and private businesses, Pictometry captures up to 12 different views of any building, highway, or other land feature in an area. While traditional satellite and aerial photography is primarily straight down, or orthogonal, Pictometry’s all-digital images are taken at an angle, called oblique. This presents aerial photographs in a 3D-like manner. As a result, Pictometry’s image databases of cities, counties, and states provides a more information-rich source of visual data for its customers, and at a significant cost savings compared to computer modeling systems of municipalities."

"MSN Virtual Earth will also be integrated with users' preferred e-mail application and, with a single click, will place links in e-mail messages to maps and images, says Steve Lombardi, a MapPoint program manager. Users will also be able to post images to their MSN Spaces Weblog from within the MSN Virtual Earth interface, Lombardi says."

Update: Robert Scoble points to a video with the MSN Vrtual Earth Team via a comment to this post.