Google has released out of beta an upgrade of its online mapping service, and Microsoft has improved its competing application with more detailed U.S. imagery.
Version 4 of Google Earth has been enhanced with more-realistic looking 3D models of terrain and buildings. "Bricks look like real bricks, glass looks like real glass, and overall, the world looks more like the real world," the company said in its product description.
In addition, Google has built a simpler user interface to make it easier to find and toggle on and off data overlays of satellite imagery. In addition, the new UI offers more screen space, and a new toolbar along the top for accessing measure, print, email and drawing tools.
Microsoft, meanwhile, is adding to Virtual Earth better aerial and satellite images of the United States from GlobeXplorer LLC. The deal also improves Microsoft's Live Search Maps, the online mapping service powered by Virtual Earth.
Google Earth and Virtual Earth are desktop applications the two rivals offer for download at no charge. Both include search functions for finding and mapping locations, and obtaining driving instructions. The service also lets users overlay information about locations, save the map, and e-mail it to others.
Through GlobeXplorer, Microsoft plans to offer high-resolution views of more than 400,000 square miles of aerial imagery. The pictures will be added during the next several months.
Google and Microsoft announced the product enhancements this week.