…MSN Virtual Earth , first announced in May, is similar to Google Maps in that it provides both street-map and satellite views of locations and provides driving directions between locations…

…In a later release of the product due out before the end of September, Microsoft will add a “bird’s eye” view of locations that lets users view aerial images not only from directly above but also from an angle. That allows them to not only see the tops of buildings but also view them from the side, said Mark Law, lead product manager for Virtual Earth. Google Maps doesn’t have that capability today.

Another feature unique to Virtual Earth is the ability to pinpoint the location of a user on a Wi-Fi network by using the Wi-Fi access points nearby, Law said. Through a client application called Microsoft Location Finder that can be downloaded when a user clicks a “Find Me” icon in Virtual Earth, Microsoft accesses the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of wireless access points that a user’s device can reach, regardless of whether the user is logged in to any of them, he said.

Microsoft has worked with third parties to assemble a database of router MAC addresses and the latitude and longitude of those access points. Location Finder finds the access points in the database and then triangulates the location of the user’s device based on the signal strength of those access points, Law said…

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