Microsoft Virtual Earth Update Will Challenge Google Earth

[NOTE: This article is from 2005, read the new story 6-November-2006 on Virtual Earth 3D]
Harris Corporation has announced their 15-meter global dataset has been selected by Microsoft for use with Virtual Earth. Harris Corp is well known in the visual simulation and training market for their databases, and the global dataset is reported to be very beautiful. It includes imagery which has been enhanced for accurate color representation.
If Microsoft is truly going to release 15-meter resolution imagery for the entire Earth, it will be a great improvement for vast portions of their Virtual Earth. Google Earth’s global data is reportedly already at 15-m resolution, although it seems some areas are lower than this – the majority is certainly better. Many of the more interesting and more populated areas are down to even inches of resolution in the Google Earth data and they are adding to their coverage on a regular basis. Chances are Google will release more data possibly even before Microsoft releases theirs.
However, Microsoft really needs to create an application like Google Earth that enables their data to be mapped into 3D. Without that Google Earth will continue to be vastly superior for truly visualizing the Earth. Unfortunately, a lot of people still seem to not realize you can pan and tilt your view in Google Earth and see the wonderful 3D landscapes.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. I just love watching these two duke it out. I’m rooting for Google, but hey, I’ll end up using which ever product is most useful to me…

  2. I’m curious, why does Microsoft need a 3D application? Until GE incorporates ortho-imagery, the 3D aspect is pretty limited for real world uses (beyond looking for you house you grew up in or what your high school looks like).

  3. James, if you’re talking about “real world” uses being GIS use, your’re right about GE. However, for visualizing 3D terrain scenery (especially mountainous areas), GE is certainly good for sightseeing and getting a feel for the lay of the land. Using the interactive pan and tilt features of a 3D application also lets you look around in ways you can’t do with a 2D application. It enhances the user experience.

  4. hold it i read on google site that they cover the entire globe with 15 meter resolution
    yet u said there was 1 km

  5. Anonymous, you are right. I’ve modified the sentence you are referring to in order to clarify what I meant.

  6. I’d still wager that GE complicates the user experience for most people. Yes it allows some users to view data in a different way, but I’d bet you most average GE users don’t even bother to tilt the globe.
    For not at least, 2 mapping in Google Maps/Virtual Earth is more important than the 3D Google Earth implementation.

  7. Exploring in 2D is boring… 🙁

  8. i agreee, 2d is garbage
    thats why gmaps stinks in comparison to gearth
    and virtual earth is the same thing, and even worse, virtual earth has horrible imagery
    did u see NY City????? its so horrible compared to google earth
    on top of that, i didnt see any of the 45 degree views they boast about
    did anyone see that screenshot that microsoft published of their softwrae (the one where u can see the building clear)?
    the actual quality is like a hundred times worse in the actual site

  9. tekgergedan says

    We the GE users do tilt the globe, I am afraid, James Fee.
    Umm… We know MS product are cool. So cool that I, personally, and all my friends ever are so cold. I am sure that MSGlobe will not turn without unexpected errors.

  10. As far as I know MS was supposed to team up with If they do, that will be very cool. I had a pictometry account for a little while and the images were great…

  11. I believe GE has world wide coverage of EarthSat NaturalVue Imagery. Which is pan-sharpened LandSat at 15m resolution

  12. tekgergedan says

    Cool (blue — though my favorite color is blue) is not good. GE’s earth colors are so hot that you won’t get a headache and your eyes do not shake. It is a big difference for our health which is a sign of Keyhole’s respectiveness.

  13. Adam Inglis says

    The 15 meter dataset released by Harris is based on TerraColor imagery that can be view at under the Free Imagery Link

  14. The medium resolution (15-meter) imagery on GE is MDA/Earthsat’s NaturalVue product. The 15-meter imagery on Microsoft’s Local.Live (ex Virtual Earth) is a version of my TerraColor product that was modified by Harris Corp. Both TerraColor and NaturalVue are “simulated natural color” products built using circa year 2000 pan-sharpened public domain Landsat satellite imagery processed by Earthsat for a NASA contract. Both have roughly equivalent resolution (detail). The main difference is in the “look” (color and brightness/contrast) of the imagery. The user can decide which they like better. See for details on the TerraColor product.

  15. i agreee, 2d is garbage

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.