As Microsoft has taken a leaf from the Google book and released a product in Beta and as it was lunch time I thought I’d have a play with the two search engines. Rather than just leap out and search some obscure term (I’ll do that later) I thought I’d first compare the mapping side of the applications.
The first thing I noticed was that there are a number of common map scales between the two applications. For example, starting with a 2 kilometre scale and looking up, the scales up to 200 kilometres were:
It is therefore fairly easy to do a straightforward comparison between the two mapping applications – sort of a side by side comparison.
I wanted to give both mapping servics a bit of a test so I selected a location I had been to before but that was a little out of the way. I selected Sukhbaater in Mongolia. I did that for a number of reasons, not least of which was that there are a number of locations with the same name in Mongolia. The one I was after was the town nearby to Altanbulag, the scene of Thomo’s detention at the hands of an overzealous customs officer who thought I looked like a terrorist. So, in Mongolia there are many Sukhbaatars – there is one Aimag (province) called Sukhbaatar whose capital is Baruun-urt and there is an Aimag called Selenge whose capital is Sukhbaatar. It was the latter one I was looking for. The image to the left is from Microsoft’s Bing and shows the pin located in the north of Mongolia, near the Russian border with the pin covering the town of Sukhbaatar.
The image to the right is the Google Maps image of the same search. Clearly we are nowhere near the Russian border but rather south-east of Ulaanbaatar and near to the town of Baruun-urt which I also visited and had a wonderful shower in. Google has changed the original search term from just “Sukhbaatar, Mongolia” to “Sükhbaatar, Sukhbaatar, Mongolia” whilst Bing refers to the town it located as “Sühbaatar, Mongolia”. Both these spellings (with the umlauts) come from Anglicisation of Mongolian Cyrillic characters used for this name. Mongolians, when they Anglicise the spelling, simply spell it as “Sukhbaatar” which is the way it is displayed on all the English language signs in the country.
I searched again. This time I used the term “sukhbaatar, selenge, mongolia” and selected the 200 km view. Now Bing, which remember had returned a good result in the first search, returned an error (shown below and to the left).
Google maps, however, managed to find the correct location as shown in the map below and to the right.
However, one thing that is apparent from the displayed maps at the moment is the greater amount of detail available in the Bing map. There are just so many more towns shown on that map than the Google one. I found this when I tried other places I have been to in Mongolia as well.
For once I think Microsoft has it over Google. Whilst I still like using Google maps (integrates seamlessly with my Picasa photo albums as well as helps me to not get lost by running as an application on my mobile phone), I do think that the Microsoft map is a superior product. See particularly the last two maps on this post, they are both the same area set with a 50km scale – notice the difference in the number of towns displayed.
I do wish, however, that both companies would start to use the Mongolian Anglicisation methods for writing Mongolian words in English – “sukhbaatar” is clearer these days than “sühbaatar” or “sükhbaatar”.