Microsoft’s plans to roll out a UK rival to Google’s Street View could be a coup for location-based advertising fans.
Just like Street View, Microsoft Bing’s “Street Side” will enable web and mobile users to see 360-views of cities. However, unlike Google, Microsoft is only sending its modified cars to take pictures of big urban areas rather than aiming to extensively photograph the globe street by street.
A Microsoft spokesman tells me its customers have come to “expect” to see virtual maps and images without leaving their computers – probably because Google Streetview has been available in the UK for two years.
The spokesman adds: “Our customers want to be able to get relevant and useful information about the area they are in or that they are planning to visit. Streetside allied to location based services will enable them to do both.”
The location-based offer is the key USP to Street Side that could make it a massive success story for Microsoft.
Currently, Google Street View carries absolutely no ads, other than old billboards that happened to be captured by their cars with cameras as they zoomed past years ago.
There were rumours Google was going to replace the dated billboards with live ads last year, but Google tells me that there is no intention for Street View to carry ads in this way.
Google does already offer location-based services on Google Maps, Places and Hotpot, but somewhat bizarrely, not on Street View.
Street Side’s extra layer above Street View will provide smartphone users with information about local services and localised ads.
Google’s and Bing’s 360 degree mapping services are the closest a user can get to a destination without actually physically being there. Users can visit Times Square, trample the streets of Hong Kong or marvel at the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro from their sofas.
Bing offering a location-based ad service on Street Side will be the equivalent to a man standing at the corner of the road with a “McDonald’s next left” sign. An overlay of location-based advertising on a Street Side provides a form of contextual targeting that users are likely to find more informative than intrusive.
Bing has already started to steal market share from Google in the US, where Street Side is already available, and the roll out of the mapping service in Europe could help make a dent on Google’s popularity this side of the Atlantic.