5 Turning Points For Microsoft's Bing Maps Beta

search engine launch of Bing Maps Beta Google

The problem for Microsoft is that "subtle" features won't be enough to draw users away from the Google tools they already know and love. Bing optimists should take the Bing Maps Beta as a pilot light, hopefully for more substantial additions to a platform that is making incremental gains against established search titans like Google and Yahoo.

Here are the essential updates:

1. Bing Stateside

Bing's Stateside is the analogue to Google Street View, allowing users to embark on a virtual walk through city streets around the world. The Microsoft hook for Bing is a "lightspeed" feature that allows users to blur the passing scenery, move around the virtual tour "faster," and zoom in and out on various locations. Bing uses Microsoft Photosynth, which manipulates photo images in 3-D to give the effect of "walking" into images.

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2. Enhanced Bird's Eye

Bing's Enhanced Bird's Eye offers aerial views of particular locations, adjusted for urban and rural settings.

3. Applications Gallery

A bookmarking and indexing feature, Applications Gallery allows users to save favorite searches and applications within Bing Maps. Users can also add content layers like Tweets, blog posts and Photosynth to customize their maps based on that content.

4. Silverlight, Please

Microsoft's Bing Maps Beta requires users to install Microsoft Silverlight 3. It's a minor plug-in, but a plug-in all the same.

5. Bing For Windows Mobile

Part of Microsoft's Bing-related launch Wednesday included a Bing app for Windows Mobile that includes quick-access maps and an auto-locate feature. According to Microsoft, the Bing app includes a voice search query, where users speak search queries into their mobile device and Bing uses voice capture and recognition to search on the screen.

Are these the types of features that are blowing your hair back? Will they at least encourage you to try Bing Maps and other Bing functions? Let us know with a comment in the ChannelWeb Connect community.