It’s amazing to me that Microsoft doesn’t make live.com search any easier. Take the maps side of live.com. It beats the crap out of Google Maps in at least one hugely helpful area: “bird’s eye” views — from four different direcitons.
But man, what a frustrating UI. Maybe it’s better for Windows/IE users, but if so, why? (Except for lock-in, which lost the appeal it never had, a long time ago.) It can start vague (on which line do you enter… what?)…
… and get worse from there.
For example, if I plug 42° 15′ 27″N, 71° 01′ 44″W into maps.google.com, I go straight to a real x/y place on a map. Live Maps doesn’t know what to do with it. But If I use Google Maps to help guide me to the same spot on Live Maps, switch to Bird’s eye, and look at what’s there, I see what I’m looking for — WUMB’s transmitting antenna — and find it: a two-bay thing sitting atop a castle turret next to a ball field on Reservoir Road, near Furnace Brook Country Club in Quincy. (I guess the castle is actually a kind of water tower… clever.) I can even see the antenna itself, which appears to be a two-bay affair, encapsulated in radomes to keep ice off the elements. When I look at it from all four directions (N,S,E,W), I can make out lots of details on the tower, count the notches in the cornice, count the seats in the ball field bleachers, and make out features less than a foot across. It’s amazing. Here’s the Google Maps version. Doesn’t begin to compare. I’d show you the Live Maps views, but there’s no way to link to them. Not that I can find, anyway. Is that sucky or what?
The maps come from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth. For what that’s worth, which is a lot. Looking around the VE site, it seems far too deeply linked to Windows-only stuff. That’s retro, folks. Stop it.
Maps, and Geo in General, is one place where Microsoft could open up and leapfrog Google in features and usability. Hey, why not?
[Later…] I’m looking for a way to show the birds-eye view to another person here at the Berkman Center, and I’m failing to find it. So are they. And they’re using a Windows workstation, even. So we’ve got maps.live.com flunking not just the Obviouness Test, but the Easiness Test too.