Bing Maps Beta: Microsoft Should Repent and Simplify

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Microsoft has released a new beta of the map function inside its Bing "decision engine." After only a few minutes with the Bing Maps beta, just like Microsoft promises, I was able to make a decision: Enough already.

Maybe I am non-creative, not enough of a consumer, or not whoever it is that Bing has in mind, but I think this user interface is a disaster. All I want is a map.

(This is a negative review of Bing's new maps. Want something happier? Read this).

I don't need a weather forecast. I don't need a Wikipedia link. I certainly don't need time-wasting panoramic photography or a bunch of seemingly random photos somehow related to the location. Nor do I need links to mapping applications on other sites.

I also don't need links to "Popular Categories" like "Apartments," "Banks," and "Taverns, Bars & Cocktail Lounges." I don't care "What's Nearby" and won't click on that, either.

The entire jumble I've just described can be found on a Bing Maps beta page. It's almost like the map is a second thought for Microsoft, after trying to get me to waste time and/or spend money before I even leave my office.

It's like the product team had a meeting, brainstormed every possible way to "add value" to their maps, and implemented all of them. Hint: Sometimes the less you do, the more value you create.

There are things on the page that I like, well, one thing: Current traffic. Click on that link and traffic conditions appear overlaid on the map. However, the traffic display isn't nearly as complete as what Google presents on its maps.

Bing has added so much stuff to their beta map service that it's like they forgot about the map. Sure, the map is there, looks pretty, and does take up most of the page. Still, there is so much extraneous stuff in the sidebar that it distracts from why I am there: Maps and directions.

When I use online mapping on a PC, it's not because I am a tourist. Generally, I have a specific destination in mind and want to see where I am going before I get in the car. Once in the vehicle, my new Garmin nuvi 1490T GPS takes over and I generally follow its directions.

Once at the location, I use Google Maps on the iPhone to help me get around, and other Google services to help me find things, if a need develops.

Compare and contrast the Bing Maps beta display with Google Maps. The latter is quite barren, just as I like it. When I go to GoogIe Maps it is because I want a map--and that's what Google gives me. It also gives me reasonably-reliable traffic conditions down to the level of major local streets.

Google Maps are simply a thing of beauty that does a job and gets out of the way. Bing Maps are a cluttered mess. I will not be revisiting Bing Maps and see little reason why a business map user would stay as long as I did to write this piece.

Put simply: Bing is trying too hard. Microsoft is also confusing what Google Earth does, in presenting photos and other information, with what business users need in online mapping.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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