I’ve been playing with Microsoft Seadragon on my iPhone — a mobile client for quickly browsing and zooming in on gigapixel imagery. The technology, developed at Microsoft Live Labs, really does provide a very efficient means of surveying large amounts of data and focusing on the information you need. In addition to some fantastic deep space gigapixel shots, there is a great set of historical maps from the US Library of Congress:
Microsoft also includes 2D Virtual Earth map datatsets — as if to prove the point that in the future, this continuous approach to zooming maps will trump the discrete layered tiles approach that Google Maps and 2D Virtual Earth currently use.
It’s great that Microsoft is building mobile tools for Apple’s iPhone, just as Apple builds iTunes for Windows, Google builds Google Earth for iPhone, and Microsoft builds Office for Mac. But where is Virtual Earth 3D for Mac? The Virtual Earth 3D plugin for PC browsers has been out since 2006, and yet there still is not a Mac version in sight. Google’s browser plugin for Google Earth came out for PCs at the end of May, and six months later the Mac version was out.
It’s wonderful to be innovative with tools like like a virtual globe browser plugin, but as long as the plugin is tied to a specific operating system, the purpose of using a web browser is defeated — that purpose being to make the operating system irrelevant. As long as Virtual Earth 3D is Windows only, it can only lose out in the adoption race against Google’s multiplatform Google Earth browser plugin. How can that be a good business decision?