This evening I decided to give Microsoft a go — as you know, I frequently disparage their products as being too wonky, needlessly complex, and overly bloated.
But I took a look at their Google Maps-style product, “Local Live” (at least, I think that’s the name. That was the URL, and the branding over at Microsoft is a little… bizarre and complex and wonky, like their products).
At first, I could see the extra feature that makes it compelling: each aerial photo has four different angles, from each pole of the compass. And because these images seem to have been taken from an airplane rather than a satellite, the imagery has more close detail. Still, the interface is rather sucky, Microsoft can’t seem to learn the lesson that simplicity is best. They cover the imagery with controls and in typical Microsoft style, one must spend time clicking away all the clutter in the way.
Then, something interesting happened. Google Earth’s imagery is pretty old in places, and Microsoft’s is much more up to date… but suddenly, without warning, you’re forced through a time machine.
Here’s what I mean. I was looking at Disneyland, and the imagery was about a year old — it was the 50th Anniversary at the park:
I nudged the imagery a bit to move south, and suddenly it was five years earlier:
This happened over and over as I scrolled around the park. The imagery would suddenly reload and I’d be looking at a different time period.
This was incredibly disconcerting, especially since the imagery didn’t match up when it jumped through time.
My suggestion to Microsoft: first, eliminate the boxes filled with controls, text, and clutter all over the map. Second, make a feature out of this time-jumping bug. Let the user know what year they’re looking at, and give them the option to view the map in other time periods for comparison.
Google Earth’s image of the place I work is over 3 years old. I ask you- How am I to spy on anyone under those conditions?