Virtual Earth’s Curlander on Google Earth

The Virtual Earth blog points to an interview in with John Curlander, who was part of Vexcel, which was acquired by Microsoft for its photogrammetry technology and integrated into the Virtual Earth team. Curlander talks a lot about Virtual Earth’s business model, and it is interesting reading, but he does get some things wrong about Google Earth:

GeoWorld: Would you say that your Web-services approach is different than how Google approaches the market?

Curlander: Google Earth isn’t really a Web service. Google bought Keyhole a few years ago for its application that’s now called Google Earth. It’s basically a 3-D viewer Google Earth and Google Maps, their Web service, are completely separate. You have to go to Google Maps for the driving directions, yellow pages, etc. and Google Earth for the 3-D visual.

Except that Google Earth really is a web service — or at the very least an internet service, with all its data streamed live to the client. Also, Google Earth and Google Maps share the same imagery dataset, and Google Maps can render a subset of Google Earth’s native KML file format. Finally, Google Earth does do driving directions and yellow pages, just like Google Maps. So Curlander should try the competition again sometime.

Other than selling the pro version of the viewer, I don’t think they’ve been successful in connecting Google Earth into any sort of business model. Maybe in the future they’ll be able to bring these tools together, but they will have to rewrite Google Earth since it is a thick client application. One of the limitations of this thick-client application, of which they have released a number of versions, is that you have to download the whole thing each time.

That said, you don’t have to download a new version of Google Earth to get access to new imagery dataset updates, new layers and new functionality like KML search. With Virtual Earth, meanwhile, you regularly have to update your browser and the plugin via the Windows updater. So the relative advantages are not that clear-cut.

8 thoughts on “Virtual Earth’s Curlander on Google Earth”

  1. Of course, Virtual Earth 3D is just as much a “thick client” as Google Earth. It just happens to be running as an Active/X control in the browser with all of the advantages (easy installation, good browser integration) and disadvantages (gotta use IE on Windows, less of an application “feel”) that come with that.

    – Michael

  2. “Other than selling the pro version of the viewer, I don’t think they’ve been successful in connecting Google Earth into any sort of business model.”

    +1 from where I sit in snowy Denver.

    And the omission of Google Earth from the recently launched Google Apps suite again raises the question of what exactly Google envisions GE’s role being in the business world.


  3. Think of the millions of people that only know how to use their computers for Outlook and IE or don’t want to install a separate application for a one-time use. Not having to install a separate application is a much bigger advantage to Virtual Earth than is being credited for. The potential user base for Google Earth is a tiny fraction of that of a browse-based application.

    In fact, Virtual Earth does not really compete with Google Earth, it competes with Google Maps, and blows it away. The real advertising money will be in a browser based application so I wouldn’t be surprised if some day GE is retired in favor of a upgraded Google Maps.

  4. To the software developer’s mind “web-services” is somthing very different to what Google Earth provides. It is about having a set of functions on your server that client software can call to get some sort of functionality. Like the Flickr API. They host the madchines and their code, client software calls the “uploadPhoto(username, userpassword, photoData)” function and the data is transmitted. It’s not about a pplication like GE that provides something useful to look at, there has to be comminication between client and server software, often via a protcol called SOAP. Mayeb that is the defintion used in the being

  5. The future of the World Wide Web is Virtual Earth.

    The amount of data that can be ‘mashed-up’ with Virtual Earth could totally change how we search and explore Online.

    I am currently working on a project with my son in which we have created two new ideas for both businesses and consumers within the Web 2.0 World.

    These ideas that we have along with the unlimited potential that we can see for Microsoft’s Virtual Earth would exceed any web project that has ever been developed Online.

    Imagine the full range of Microsoft’s Products and Services being accessed within Virtual Earth, from the X-BOX to API GADGETS.

    If there will be any moment in our time that shall sum up what is the meaning of Web 2.0 , then that moment shall be the total realization of Microsoft’s Virtual Earth.

  6. i have a question for u guys whether its possible to attach google raster and vector data for commercial use. i am trying to make a website like for some indian google allow indian companies to share their data and attach new layers showing my places of interest?

    guys please reply me if u have the knowledge. I will be grearful to u guys

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