Microsoft’s Earth

We had Johannes Kebeck from the Virtual Earth team at Microsoft (covering EMEA) talking at Kingston this week. This can almost be seen as a direct follow-on to Ed Parsons from Google who spoke last year. Ed’s talk was very much semantic, looking at spatial searching and how Google are trying to be cleverer about delivering results to the end-user. Johannes, in stark contrast, was a whistlestop tour of everything spatial at Microsoft that left me quite breathless. The sheer scope and vast vision is quite compelling. OK, Microsoft is not doing this for our benefit, but rather a peachy slice of the estimate $80B online advertising market. Yes, you read that right….. $80B. With Google the market leader by such a large margin there is a lot of catching up to do and any slice of that pie is worth a lot of money!!

So what were the themes; well Virtual Earth with vertical and oblique imagery much collected by their own company Vexcel. Automated generation of 3D city models, textured with imagery, incorporation of third party data such as businesses, POIs, time, traffic and weather. Integration with existing MS technologies such as SQLServer, Live Search, DirectX, Visual Studio, Windows Mobile and (of course) SilverLight. And then this is released upon the community to develop in to mashups. And integration in to Groove, Office, SQLServer and SharePoint. Mashups (a la Yahoo Pipes) generated through PopFly. Adding a variety of industry standard spatial data formats, leveraging beta research products such as Image Composite Editor, Photosynth, and HDView to generate rasters. The acquisition of Caligari now allows the free generation of 3D models. They have set their sites firmly on the webGIS front-end and have a strategic partnership with ESRI for the spatial processing, whilst using SQLServer for all the data storage.

I could have hyperlinked all of these items, but I thought I would leave you with Johannes last slide listing a whole variety of links. The scope is simply vast and only a company such as Microsoft could leverage such resources. It’s not necessarily the future I envisage or even one I agree with or want to engage with. But parts are certainly transfixing and with Microsoft putting it’s weight behind GIS, a lot is going to be happening.

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