Google Earth Blog rarely comments on other mapping products since it is focused on GE. However, the release last night of Microsoft’s Windows Live Local new imagery for the UK is worth mentioning. The new Live Local imagery is really much superior to the satellite/aerial photos in the Google Earth/Maps database for the UK (Google above, Microsoft below in screenshot of the London Eye here). Live Local’s imagery has been processed for clarity, color balance, and sharpness. The resolution is equal to Google’s best imagery for the area, and it is much better in several areas in the UK where Google’s isn’t even high resolution. For a real comparison, I recommend trying FlashEarth which lets you zoom with the mousewheel and simply click between Live Local and Google Maps satellite views. Google’s data looks like a patched quilt of imagery from on high, while Microsofts looks much more consistent.
Not long ago Microsoft announced it had invested serious money to compete with Google, and they have made some significant acquisitions of companies in the aerial photography and virtual earth industry. Hopefully Google has been taking notes. Because Google is going to need to release some serious upgrades soon to Google Maps and Google Earth or they will lose the leadership advantage they have had for the last year. Also see OgleEarth’s comments on this subject.
I decided to try using Google’s Picassa on the Google Maps version of the London Eye used in the comparison above. I did a “feeling lucky”, color saturation, and a sharpness. The quality of the new image is much improved. This is the kind of thing I’m sure Microsoft has done with their data in order to get the better look. You can see the result in the photo here (click on the thumbnail for a better view).
Now all Google needs to do is a “little” processing on several hundred thousand square kilometers of photos and their pictures will look just as good.