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Google Earth For Android Tablets Debuts

Google Business Photos, another new service, offers business owners a way to create a high-quality panorama depicting both the exterior and interior of their business.

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At the Social-Loco conference in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, Marissa Mayer, VP of consumer products at Google, introduced two new Google products that leverage the company's mapping technology to promote social interaction and commerce.

The first, Google Business Photos, offers business owners the opportunity to arrange a photo shoot with Google that creates a high-quality 360-degree Street View-style panorama depicting both the exterior and interior of their business.

The resulting imagery is available on Google Place Pages, which features structured information about local businesses and points of interest that appear in Web or map searches. Google launched Place Pages last fall and now has over 50 million of them.

"Our Place Pages are also about reviews, not just about the facts," said Mayer, noting that Google has collected some five million Place Page reviews already and is seeing about a million added every month.

Google Business Photos provide business owners with a way to present their brand that isn't framed by the not-always-welcome opinions of customers.

The service will be available next week in the U.S., Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. The company plans to publish a blog post detailing the process next week.

The second product introduction was Google Earth for Android tablets. Google Earth for Android phones was launched about a year ago. The tablet-tuned version of Google Earth relies on version 3.0 of Google's Android operating system, otherwise known as "Honeycomb."

Google Earth for Android tablets, available from the Android Market, was demonstrated on a Motorola Xoom and takes advantage of the large screen and tactile input. It includes a new action bar on the top that provides access to useful functions like search and a 3-D building layer, a feature in the desktop version of Google Earth that for the first time is available on a mobile device.

Google gets most of its 3-D imagery from users, who contribute 3-D models they've created, often with Google tools like SketchUp, for free. This system of crowdsourcing appears to work well, particularly when geography plays a major role in an important news story: Only a few days after the announcement of Osama Bin Laden's death, a Google Earth user had uploaded a 3-D model of Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Google Earth for Android tablets is also made richer through user-contributed photos from Panoramio, Google's social photo service. And based on Mayer's comments during an interview that followed her product announcements, it appears that Google's method for producing Google Business Photos at scale will be to rely on the contributed labor of its users.

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