Microsoft is giving Bing Maps a much needed refresh in an attempt to compete with Google’s dominant product. The new beta utilizes Microsoft’s own Silverlight multimedia plugin to provide smoother zooming and redraws. It also allows some very nice looking 3D building maps. It certainly does feel like a very polished experience, in contrast to Google’s more utilitarian aesthetic.
Microsoft is also working on a new Application Gallery framework for Bing Maps. These will mostly take the form of data overlays on the maps. One of the first available is a Twitter layer that shows nearby tweets. This is an interesting use of the twitter data fire hose that Bing now has access to. A similar app called Local Lens shows the locations of local blogs based on contextual clues in the posts.
Will the enhancements help make Bing more visible? While it is an interesting interface, the future is still murky in the shadow of Google. This much is certain though: Microsoft is prepared to work hard to take a piece of the search market they feel they disserve.Check out the beta here.
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