Friday, July 07, 2006

Review of Online Mapping Sites: Windows Live Local

Windows Live Local is Microsoft's entry into the world of online mapping sites and it is a decent one at that.

User Friendliness

Everything screams Windows user friendliness. The logo is that of Windows XP and the light blue hues are reused. Simple text boxes and easy to understand tool bars guide users. Third mouse button scroll is supported. To recenter one needs to right-click because a regular left click does nothing.

The zoom control is disorienting however. The image will become fuzzy then there is a load time to restore focus.

Driving Directions

Windows Live Local did standard on the long-term driving test. At the end it gave me directions which were slightly longer than they needed to be. However, directions were super clear and easy to understand. Also, information like "Entering Nebraska" was given.

The short term test was impossible to do. The street information of Washington DC was too much for the program. Also, "find businesses or landmarks" was unable to find what I wanted and a substitute could not be carried over to directions.

Map Quality and Quantity

The map quality is above average. Things are clearly labeled and drawn. However, at high views everything looks like different shades of the same color. The aerial view is nice and Microsoft is not shy about using black and white DOQQs. The imagery in some places is dated though and lags behind Google's database.

Maps and directions are available internationally. Detailed instructions were given for a Paris to Budapest fun run.

What sets Windows Live Local is "bird's eye view." This is a very detailed and angled aerial shot. It is limited for certain cities. One nice thing is that the direction can be changed; for example, south can be at the top of the screen. However, scrolling is forbidden and the reorientation is not available for the map or aerial views.

Extras

It is clear Microsoft has much in mind for Live Local. Mash-up technology is in place and can be used in Microsoft's version of MySpace. Traffic is much better than Yahoo's. It is easy and customizable to share, print, or save maps and directions.

Summing Up

Microsoft has a potential winner on there hands. A little more tweaking and who knows what they can do with this.

No comments: