Microsoft Launches WorldWide Telescope For Virtual Stargazing - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Launches WorldWide Telescope For Virtual Stargazing

With the launch of WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft will extend its battle for Internet dominance with Google to the cosmos.

Microsoft has formally launched its Worldwide Telescope project, an online collection of images from deep space that represent Redmond's answer to Google Sky.

"The WorldWide telescope is a powerful tool for science and education that makes it possible for everyone to explore the universe," said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, in a statement Tuesday. The project provides "a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope," according to the WorldWide Telescope Web site.

The online service combines terabytes of celestial images and other data that users can pan across using a viewer that employs Microsoft's Visual Experience Engine. WorldWide Telescope also includes interactive links to audio and video presentations that offer more information about the part of space that the user is viewing.

The service is free, and is dedicated to the memory of Microsoft researcher Jim Gray, who went missing at sea last year. Microsoft says much of the technology in WorldWide Telescope is built on Gray's original SkyServer project.

WorldWide Telescope is similar to Google Sky, a service that the search engine giant added to its Google Earth site in August. Google has partnered with the Space Telescope Scientist Institute and the Hubble Space Telescope on the project. WorldWide Telescope also uses data from the Hubble telescope.

With the launch of WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft will extend its battle for Internet dominance with Google to the cosmos. The two companies in recent years have been matching each other service for service in an effort to establish themselves as the Web's premier software platform.

Google launched Google Apps in 2006 with an eye to breaking Microsoft's stranglehold on the desktop applications market. The consumer version of the service offers free word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools.

Microsoft has countered with a strategy called software-plus-services, under which it's moving parts of its application portfolio to the Web.

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