I'm going to take a little break from the SDK talk. I'll get back to it next week.
By now I'm sure most of you have tried Google Earth, the latest very cool app from Google. It's the first app in a long time that's made me say "wow". There's just something immensely cool about finding a nicely rendered 3D version of my house or the Microsoft campus, and of course it's even cooler to add an overlay of real-time traffic information to the site, or find the nearest pizza restaurants or other Google Earth hacks. What's most cool about it for me is not seeing where I live, but seeing places in other parts of the world. If I want to visit Kiev, Ukraine, or Auckland, New Zealand or Cairo, Egypt, they're just a keystroke away. I love the appearance Google Earth gives of flying across the world from continent to continent on your virtual travels. It's just a very cool app and an insane time waster. Don't start using Google Earth at work because you might never get your work done.
It's clear that there's still a lot of work to be done on Google Earth before it becomes great. If you look at Auckland, for instance, you see there are several areas that are mapped very well and others that are mapped poorly. Obviously the satellites haven't been watching New Zealand very closely recently. And Antactica looks great from a distance but up close, it's a big blur. Still, overlays like this one show the potential for coolness for this app.
So whenever we see something cool like Google Earth, a Microsoftie's first thoughts are "can we do this better?" and "how much money can be made from this product?" Obviously we can do this better. It's a new field, with a lot of room for growth. Quite frankly, even if I didn't work for the company, screenshots like this one make me believe that MS Virtual Earth has the potential to provide a graphs to the user. I'm sure Google will improve as Microsoft releases our product. Good, competition will help everyone, and the consumer is inevitably the winner.
As far as there being money in this space, I have to wonder. An app like Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth would be great for use on a handheld device when travelling or for people who have to do a lot of driving on their jobs. But I'm not sure how a product like this can escape its niche. Aside from the coolness of the apps, are these going to be best-sellers?
Back to the SDK world on Monday or Tuesday.