April 13, 2011

Microsoft Launches Streetside Service In Europe

Microsoft has launched its own version of Google's StreetView across Europe.

The software giant partnered with Nokia-owned Navteq to send cars fitted with cameras to snap images around London and start mapping major cities on the continent next month.

The service is already available in 56 U.S. towns and cities.

Microsoft has been known to avoid the privacy concerns that dogged Google's service, but the company said that it will still be gathering Wi-Fi data.

According to the company's director of search, Dave Coplin, Streetside will be on a smaller scale than StreetView.

"We're not setting out to record every street. We believe it is most valuable in urban centers where people want to find services," he told BBC News.

Coplin said that Microsoft's ultimate aim was to combine Streetside with location-based services.

Once the service goes live on Microsoft's mobile platforms, it will combine with so-called blockview technology, which allows images to be flattened out and overlaid with metadata.

Coplin said that information collected while trolling the streets will be used to offer contextual advertising and other localized information.

"When the majority of people have a smartphone and mobile broadband is completely stable, services such as Foursquare, Groupon and other local services will all come together, offering local services and localized advertisements," he said.

Microsoft does not have ambitions to map every street in the world, such as Google's Streetview service.

Google's controversial images it has taken include a naked man climbing into his car in Germany and images of dead bodies on a street in Rio de Janeiro.

Microsoft said it has been working with privacy organizations including Big Brother Watch and Privacy International to ensure it does not fall short of U.K. laws to protect individuals.

The software giant said it will be placing adverts in local newspapers before cars started to film in each of the 29 U.K. cities that they will be covering over the next two years. 


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