http://local.live.com

So I decided to test drive the mapping service from Microsoft today.

The first thing I usually do is to directions for the unlikely senario that I have to drive from Miami to Seattle. The first time I tried it, I got the "server is busy. Please try again" message. That put a little damper of my opinion.

Then I decided, that I would do comparison of different routes that I take home to work. Now, most other mapping services like google's and yahoo!'s and Rand McNally's ask you for a start and end addresses, and then find "best" directions. These directions are often not the best if you have some local knowledge about shortcuts either from a person who lives there, of having been to the place, you have some vague memory of it.

Microsoft's offering on the other hand allows you to locate the locations you're interested in without specifying the address. All you have to do is point, right-click and select either "from" or "to". Now this allows a user to plan the route in stages, or if the user has some local knowledge, use it for route planning. I'm pretty sure Google, Yahoo! and RandMcNally must have thought about this, but they must have figured that most users would just want to input the start and end address and get the directions. The Microsoft user experience for me was pretty good, except for the the initial hiccup about the "server being busy…" but I dont think its going to go down well with users. At least I dont think they will use the service to its full potential.

The one other feature I was curious about was the "locate me" feature. I clicked on that, and a window opened up giving me three choices.

  • Install an ActiveX control.
  • Use an IP address
  • Cancel

I'm betting that most users are either going to skim down the text, see the cancel button and click on it, or alternatively, they're going to see ActiveX control click on the small "x" on the top-right corner. This is typical Microsoft UI.

All in all, my initial reaction is that its a great and feature-rich service. While it may win me over, I dont think it will over rank-and-file consumers, either because of the halo effect of google and yahoo! or they might not use it to its full abilities.

…I'll be writing more about this as I use the new services more.

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