Archive for the ‘Live Search for Mobile’ Category
In April 2008 Live Search launched a feature in the UK and Japan called ‘Find my location’ which enables you to browse to http://m.live.com on your phone and find your location without having a GPS receiver or extra software installed. This isn’t the same as the ‘My Location’ feature in Google Maps for Mobile because that relies on an installed piece of software and Google’s own database of mast locations. The Live Search implementation relies on the service providers themselves which has the advantage of being up to date and working in a browser but the disadvantage of relying on a third party which is why it only works in the UK and Japan right now.
Unfortunately when I tried to use the feature back in April it didn’t actually work and after investigation I discovered that it was because my service provider, Vodafone, hadn’t opened up Location-Based-Services (LBS) on their internet gateway. When I tried the feature today whilst at Heathrow airport I was delighted to find that Vodafone had twiddled the appropriate knobs to turn this on so if you are in the UK and are on Vodafone head to http://m.live.com and try it out. I don’t think it works on all phones (I stand to be corrected) but it works on mine so I’m happy. Here’s a screenshot after I’d tried it at Heathrow:
I understand that we have Oded Ran at Microsoft UK to thank for this. Kudos Oded!
UPDATE: Oded has provided the following information and has permitted me to share it:
Find My Location with Live Search works on most mobile phones from O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone in the UK. The mobile phone has to be configured to use the network’s default WAP gateway. Luckily, most mobile phones (including the popular Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Windows Mobile models) are configured that way so users can start using Find My Location right away by going to msn.co.uk from their mobile’s web browser.
Unfortunately, some mobile phones like O2’s iPhone, some BlackBerry smartphones on corporate plans and handsets with Opera browsers do not pass through the network WAP gateway. For this reason, Find My Location might not work on these phones. In this case, users can still enjoy Live Search on their mobiles but will not be able to use Find My Location.
Thanks again Oded!
"the forthcoming release packs my favorite feature which I’m not allowed to tell you about just yet"
I’m a big Live Search Mobile user so I’m very intrigued about what this feature might be. I strongly suspect that it will be along the lines of sharing your location back up to the cloud either for the purposes of publishing your GPS location to your friends or for the purposes of using data from many people to derive useful information (a form of crowdsourcing). One oft spoke of use of this type of crowdsourced data would be in determining real-time traffic conditions. For example, if you know that a lot of people are travelling slowly along a particular road then you can be pretty sure that the traffic conditions on that road are in the red zone. This would make a very neat tie-in with the AI engine that is currently powering Live Maps’ Directions.
Personally though I hope that the feature he speaks of is that of being able to share your location with your friends (or groups of your friends). The lack of this feature in Live Search for Mobile has bothered me since well before I talked about it back in August 2007 in my blog entry Track my location please (and I’ve mentioned it many times since then). This feature would make Live Search for Mobile very compelling; at the moment the only people that I know of that are attempting to do something in this space are Mologogo although I downloaded their client and, whilst it works, there are too many foibles for me to use it permanently.
- Map your contacts. For any people that are in your contact list (with their address obviously) you will have the ability to map their location and then get easy directions to them.
- Live Collection support. If you have created your own custom maps of locations and events on the PC you can now access them on your mobile phone.
- Weather. Its a mobile phone and where better to have access to the latest weather information including a 4 day forecast
- Added Web Search. This client service has been designed for the local scenario but obviously there are times when you need to find information from the broader web so that’s now included.
Added web search is a nice-to-have so I’m pleased with that. Weather was also a no-brainer given existing functionality but again, nice-to-have.
Map Your Contacts sounds very useful but I don’t understand why this is being touted as a new feature given that you can do this today. To prove it, below is a video I recorded a few minutes ago on the existing version of Live Search for Mobile. You will see that I am able to select one of my contacts (in this case my local doctor) and retrieve the address for use in Live Search for Mobile. [If you're reading this in a newsreader then you might not be able to see the video in which case go here instead]
Perhaps the new feature they are talking about enables you to launch Live Search for Mobile straight from your address book although if this is true then they are only playing catch-up as we have been able to do this on Google Maps for Mobile (GMM) for sometime now, at least since 26th June 2007 when I published this comparison of Live Search for Mobile and GMM. In there you will see a screenshot of this capability in GMM.
I’m very pleased with the new Live Collection support. I asked (via the Live Search Mobile team’s email address) for this feature back in Summer 2007 and I’m delighted that its now been included. This is the first feature in Live Search for Mobile that makes use of the Windows Live ID and I hope to see much more in the future. For example, storing driving directions as a collection and then viewing them in Live Search for Mobile would be very very useful indeed.
All in all this looks like being a good update but as always I’m left with questions:
- Why are USA and UK the only supported countries?
- Why does the UK only get a subset of features?
- Why will the voice integration that Phil talked about recognise non-american accents?
- When will be able to triangulate our location from mobile phone masts? This feature was launched in GMM in November 2007 with some noticeable fanfare.
The continued indifference to the world outside the USA is particularly irksome. Are there are efforts underway to sort this out? If so, there isn’t any sign of it yet.
I’ve waxed lyrical on here before about the quality of Live Search for Mobile but I’m on the verge of taking it all back. Check out this video of me trying to use it.
I’ve rebooted, reinstalled. And this happens every single time.
Hmm…maybe I should head for Google Maps instead!!!
P.S. If you’re reading this in a news reader and the video isn’t displaying above head here instead: http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!550F681DAD532637!2404.entry or go and watch it on MSN Video: http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=8a7c99d7-bd0f-4977-9b20-3c7ce342d784
I’ve noticed some interesting applications lately that enable someone with a GPS receiver to broadcast their whereabouts to all and sundry on the web. The first I remember was the London bike route on the Contoso Bicycle club Quickapps demo. Then today I was made aware of Bill Snitzer filming his route from San Fransisco to Los Angeles and allowing people to track it on Google Maps (at the time of writing its not working too well but I’ll let them off). I’ve seen various other apps doing similar things.
It occurred to me that the various map online providers out there are missing a trick here. How difficult would it be to provide a service that allowed someone to broadcast their position on a publicly available map? Even better, how about if that map showing the person’s location could be embedded in a web page (just like you can do today with a conventional Google map) and automatically updated. Better still, only allow your position to be broadcast to people that you feel are worthy of knowing about it. There are a number of "bits" that are required here:
- Some software, probably hosted on a phone equipped with a GPS receiver, that can zap your position back to some service in the cloud that collects it and stores it. Yahoo, Google and Microsoft already have phone-based software that could easily allow this. I reviewed the Google and Microsoft offerings here.
- The cloud service to capture the information and then display it (this is the bit everyone is missing)
- Online maps (again Microsoft, Google and Yahoo already have this)
- An authentication system (they all have this too)
- A contacts list that could allow you to select who can see your position (Microsoft have this, not sure about Google and Yahoo)
- Ability to embed the map into a web page (Google have this)
- Ability for that map to auto-update with the person’s position (theoretically not too difficult for Google to add this)
- Somewhere to embed the map (Microsoft have this with Live Spaces, I suppose Google have it with blogger, not sure about Yahoo)
Most of the bits are just about in place. Why aren’t these three powerhouses coming out with this sort of service?
Aside from the coolness factor and the fun you can have with this there are some obvious real-world benefits too. Parents have the ability to track their kids, employers have the ability to track their staff, lads and lasses have the ability to track their wayward other halves I’d be surprised if one of the aforementioned big three didn’t come out with some service like this in the near future.
One month ago I published a review of Google Maps for Mobile and Windows Live Search for Mobile which you can read here. Today Gear Digest have published their own, much more detailed, comparison of the two as well as Yahoo’s similar offering. Unlike myself who just did a feature-by-feature comparison Gear Digest make a firm recommendation (if you can be bothered to read that far – its 8 pages in). If you think about whose blog you are reading right now and the fact that I’m pointing it out then you can probably guess what they recommended.
Read Gear Digest’s review here.
Thanks for the tip.
Version 2 of Windows Live Search for Mobile (WLS) has been released. Read the announcement here which contains screenshots and in this case a picture really does tell a thousand words.
Here’s the list of new features:
- Get movie times
- Search for restaurants and see ratings
- WLS will now cache onto your storage card if you have one installed (thank god, the biggest problem in v1 was it taking up all my storage space)
- Auto re-route of directions if you get lost (only works if you have GPS along for the ride)
Some other announcements:
- A beta of WLS is now available for Blackberry phones.
- Microsoft are also touting their mobile search portal at http://m.live.com. Search the web, images, news, local listings and instant answers (including from Encarta) right from your mobile phone. Its actually worth checking it out on a normal browser (i.e. not on a mobile device) as well, you might prefer it to your regular search engine.
If you want to know more about WLS then read my comparison of it with Google Maps for Mobile here. With this release Microsoft have nudged themselves ahead in the mobile search space, what can Google counter with (one would hope it will be something pretty good)?
Its also now plainly obvious why "Windows Live Search for Mobile" is so-called rather than "Windows Live Maps for Mobile".
UPDATE: See a video of this in action here.
Google have created quite a stir with their Google Maps for Mobile tool (my colleague Keni Barwick has talked about it here) but did you know that Microsoft have had a very similar tool called Windows Live Search for Mobile available for alot longer? These two products are the best examples that I can think of to illustrate the software-and-a-service paradigm that is emerging. The software is the thing you install on your phone, the service is the search engines that sit in the cloud.
I assumed that Keni would have used the Windows Live product rather than the Google one because he’s generally a Microsoftophile so I asked him why he didn’t. Here’s the email conversation we had (copied word for word):
Me: Why didn’t you use the Windows Live version?
Keni: It’s ****
Me: Why? Give me more [reasons] than that.
Keni: I can’t mate as I’ve not tried it to be honest
This kinda goes back to the branding debate that I talked about recently. People just assume that the Google one will be better because its Google. As usual though the reason that nobody knows about the Windows Live offering is that Microsoft do such a poor job of telling people.
I’ve been using both of them for quite a while and in this blog entry I’m going to do a comparison piece on the two. And it will be completely unbiased. I promise.
For conciseness I’ll refer to Google Maps for Mobile as GMM and Windows Live Search for Mobile as WLS.
Essentially the two are pretty much the same, its the odd nuance here and there that differentiate them. They both provide the same basic functionality:
- Search for locations, businesses, services and places of interest and display them on a map
- Integrate with your phone’s built-in or connected GPS receiver (if it has one). I don’t have a GPS receiver unfortunately so haven’t been able to test this out.
- Live traffic information is available provided you live in a big US city. I don’t so I haven’t tested this either.
- Driving directions
The killer feature for me has been the driving directions. I’ve been living in a new part of the world for the past 10 months and these tools have been invaluable to me in finding my way about. Its been like having an AtoZ of the entire planet in my pocket. That’s no overstatement. As I say though there ARE some differences so, here comes my blow-by-blow account of GMM and WLS.
The maps on GMM are the same as what you will see on http://maps.google.com/. Similarly the maps on WLS are the same as what you will see on http://maps.live.com/ so your choice of whether to use GMM or WLS may well depend on which of the full online versions you use.
I did a search on both products for "Edinburgh Castle" and here are what they both display:
and here are the aerial/satellite shots
As you can see they’re very similar. The key difference is that WLS overlays roadnames onto the aerial shots, GMM doesn’t. In the case of this search on Edinburgh Castle GMM has more detail on the map than WLS.
Pressing 1 on the screenshots from GMM above will display basic contact information although in this case it didn’t provide the phone number anywhere which WLS manages to display on the map.
By comparing the search abilities we are kind of taking this outside the realm of just comparing GMM and WLS but we can’t really compare the software part of software-and-a-service without considering its interaction with that service.
The comparison here is basically the same as that with their big brothers, Google Maps and Live Maps. GMM has a single searchbox whereas WLS has two, one for the business or service that you are searching for and another for the location.
I won’t comment on which is the better approach, plenty of people have done that before me and you can make your mind up for yourself..
I did some more test searches to see which returned the better results. First test, search for my employer, "Conchango, London".
WLS managed to find our head office whereas GMM didn’t return anything. Note I tried just using "conchango" as the search term and got the same result.
Next I tried searching for my hometown rugby team:
As you can see, both came up with nought so I tried the footy team instead.
GMM couldn’t find anything whereas WLS actually returned 5 different links, none of them pertaining to the actual real location. I’d rather not have any results at all rather than inaccurate ones so all things considered searching is pretty much a tie.
Both GMM and WLS have features that the other has not.
I particularly like GMM’s Contacts integration whch adds a menu item ‘Locate in Google maps…’ to any contact containing an address as can be seen here:
and indeed in this case it managed to successfully locate the address on a map as seen here:
WLS has got a very nice feature that categorises businesses and services thus allowing you to search for a list of those services that are local for you. For example, here’s a series of screenshots that show how I can get a list of restaurants local to my (temporary) home in Bakersfield, California.
Of course, you can map all of those results as well:
(As you can see, Bakersfield isn’t blessed with a plethora of great restaurants!)
As you can see both tools are very similar whilst both have some extra features that give them a unique selling point. I can’t make my mind up which is better and I tend to flip between the two of them which admittedly is pretty stupid given the meagre rations of disk space and processing power available on my phone.
I hope this has proved useful. If you have any questions or comments about features on the two of them then don’t hesitate to reply here with a comment.
I recently downloaded Live Search Mobile onto my smartphone. One of the best features about it is that they have categorised local amenities so that if you want to to find (say) your nearest restaurant it really is very easy to do. The high-level categories are:
- Government and Community
- Health and Fitness
- Hotels and Accomodation
- Shopping and Services
Recently however I uncovered what I reckon is a glaring omission from their categories. The ‘Health and Fitness’ section contains a subsection of ‘Hospitals’. That’s all well and good but it doesn’t differentiate between hospitals that do and do not have an emergency room. I would have thought that that would be a prime feature for a mobile location based service such as this. What do you think?
I would pass this feedback onto the Windows Live team via http://feedback.live.com/ but unfortunately I grew exasperated with that site a long time ago given the fact that the feedback is wholly one way – you never hear back from them.