Microsoft Launches Windows Live Local

Microsoft has followed up last month’s launch of its Windows Live ad-supported application portal with a beta launch of Windows Live Local.

Windows Live Local adds some functionality to MSN Local Search, which launched in June. MSN Local had combined Microsoft’s Virtual Earth mapping and location platform with city- and region-specific White and Yellow Pages business listings.

Ads on the site are currently provided by Yahoo Local Sponsored Search, but it’s expected MSN’s adCenter will begin distributing ads there at some point next year.

“Local search and Windows Live Local is about providing relevant information matched to user needs and will continue to surface advertising and monetization that integrates well with that experience goal,” said an MSN spokesperson.

Yahoo was first to add maps to its Local Search last year, and Google integrated its local search product with Google Maps in March, and shows its own locally targeted ads.

New features in Windows Live Local include a “bird’s eye view,” showing a 45-degree view from above of major U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Las Vegas. The service has more tightly integrated directions into the service, so users can click on any spot on the map and get directions to or from that location.

Users can also share maps more easily, creating a customized URL for the page that saves their location, settings, notes and user-generated Pushpins marking locations.

A search for a local business by name or category will return several listings, along with their locations on a map. Clicking on a listing or its location gives users the option of copying the address and phone number to a scratch pad, getting directions to or from the location, or zooming in to street level. Users can toggle between street view, a satellite image, and bird’s eye view, where available. launched in November, marking not only a new model for Microsoft to deliver software, but an increased commitment to marketers.

According to Forrester analyst Charlene Li, Windows Live Local is still behind Google, which has more robust Web spidering, and Yahoo, which has more user-generated content that aids decision-making. But the bird’s-eye view is a feature that might draw users to Microsoft’s product.

“The question will be if people will stay and switch their mapping and local preferences over to Microsoft,” Li wrote in her blog. “I suspect that this new offering is a definite step in that direction.”

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