So, now that the shiny new Windows 8 Consumer Preview has been out for some time now, surely you’re eager to develop for it. If any of your preliminary, tinker-with-WinRT apps involves mapping, here’s something to take a look at: On Tuesday, Microsoft released the Bing Maps SDK for Metro-style apps, which packs a set of controls that will let you integrate mapping into your Windows 8 apps quite easily.
In what appears to be one of many collaborations that we can expect to come from Microsoft and Nokia, the Bing Maps and Nokia Maps teams have recently collaborated to develop — and launch across both products — a new and improved map design. Packing improvements to the road map style, typography, and the use of visual hierarchy, the update aims to, quoting the Bing announcement, “unify our map elements, improve contrast and usability to ultimately create a more beautiful and functional map.”
The color palette for the road map style has been improved, and, as a result, you will no longer mistake roads for rivers. In all seriousness, the improved colors are quite nice on the eyes, and they do not clash with overlaid data. Improvements to typography were also made; small type is now easier to read, city names are large and transparent, and their size scales with your zoom level, and type size hierarchy helps to bring order to the maps. They’ve also made improvements to the visual hierarchy — basically, what data is shown — at different zoom levels.
On top of these map improvements, they vastly improved their mapping coverage and data through their partnership with Nokia and NavTeq. As a result, map data has improved drastically in several countries, including Egypt, Israel, Malta, Philippines, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
It is hard to go online today without touching one or more Google products or services. If it is not search, it may be email, YouTube, Blogger, Picasa, Docs, or Calendar. Google has truly blanketed us with their web-based app offerings. Heck, even the Google Doodle is a conversation topic!
In this editorial, I shall discuss how you can kick the Google habit, what I am using now as alternatives and why you probably won’t be able to replace certain Google products today. Ready to move away from Google? First, some background.
Some of the reasons I personally decided to look for alternatives:
- Google became a part of virtually everything I did online. I used GMail, Google Reader, Google Finance, Blogger, Picasa, Picasa Web, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Calendar and Google Maps. I felt uncomfortable putting such a large portion of my online life in Google’s hands.
- Google morphed from the cool little startup building fun stuff for consumers, to a dominant public company whose revenues essentially came from just one product. That’s the key most (96%) of its revenues (and profits) came from search advertising. In other words, it needed other ways to make money. The most obvious way to do so would be to extend the arm of advertising, their main revenue-generating product, into other products. I realized I was the merchandise.
- Google seemed to get Apple and Facebook envy. Apple was growing rapidly across all their product lines and at very high profit margins, and Facebook was taking eyeballs and key talent away from Google. This led to some bad attempts to mock Apple and Facebook publicly, which of course delighted the Google developer and enthusiast community but came off as being negative to me. If you make a great product, you don’t need a negative campaign.
- Aside from philosophy, some of the competing products started becoming better, and Google’s products started getting worse (more on that within my descriptions) prompting me to start Project Un-Google which was an effort to use fewer and fewer Google products, hopefully reaching a point where I did not depend on any Google product at all.
Whether it is for philosophy, or hedging your web app bets, it is good to know there is life outside Google when it comes to products and services online and offline. There is usually a strong resistance to change, especially if you have a long history with a product. There is a high cost for transferring the old stuff, and learning your way around a new product/service. However, these challenges are not insurmountable, and I hope you take a look at some or all of the products I list here as an alternative to Google. If you have ideas of other products I may not have mentioned, please let me know!
Popular Google products
Here are some of the Google products/services I will be comparing to competition:
I realize Google has many more products, appsand services, but I did not look at products like Book Search which are very niche. My attempt here is to look at the commonly used products and services only.
The tragedy in Japan and the use of Web 2.0 technologies to spread the word about the disaster has increased awareness about Tsunamis, Japan’s spirit and Nuclear power as well. Microsoft tried to leverage their twitter presence to pitch in but were caught off guard by the backlash. My colleague called the tweet "insensitive". Microsoft later made the right move and tried to fix the damage by talking about their various efforts.
Now the Bing Maps team has come up with an interactive map showing the before/after images of the disaster. The Bing Maps application is pretty simple to use and if I may point out, Microsoft has placed a link on how we can help the relief efforts in Japan.
Japan Earthquake Before and After