So, I thought I'd try MSN's new Virtual Earth. Now, several days later, I'm actually able to try - I was getting various errors, mostly along the lines of "Timed out waiting for server" or "No response from server" every time I'd tried in the past.
Verdict: poorly executed clone of Google Maps.
Reasons it's poor:
* No hi-res coverage of Australia
* No maps of Australia at all - just the outline. It's nice knowing you live on a grey blob with no distinguishing features
* Just like Google, MSN have included a cool little bar showing the scale of the map/photo you're looking at. Unlike Google, this scale is only in Miles - a unit that, as far as I know, only a single country in the entire world still uses.
* I don't like any of the interface elements, they feel very clunky. They're also not responding properly to my mouse - not responding to clicks etc. Google can get this right, why can't Microsoft?
It was bad enough having to put up with Scoble's childish little "I know something you don't know, doo-dah, doo-dah" dance for weeks prior to launch.
Oh gawd.. I just made the mistake of looking at the comments page for Scoble's original post about VirtualEarth. There's huuuge lists of what's wrong with this product there - and Scoble's attempt at proving that it's better than Google maps appears to boil down to "But if you click this, then this, then this, it can show you a location that may, or may not, be where you are right now!".
Typical. Scoble likes to pretend to be fair-minded and equitable - but the man is totally blind. He's made a few good calls, but in the main, he parrots the company line like a.. well, like a parrot. He consistently pretends that Microsoft products are superior to anything else, even when they're clearly not.
Frank over at Bisonium did a good job, so I won't bother ranting about Scoble any further - just go there and read.
To be fair, a lot of this is probably because Scoble works for MS and doesn't get any chance to get away from their brainwashing machine. Yes, Virtual Earth is a very cool thing, and no doubt took many talented people a long time to create. It's understanable that the people involved feel very excited and proud of what they've produced, and rightly so. It's just a pity that Scoble's let their enthusiasm blind him to what is blindingly obvious to external observers - this product falls far short of the standard set by Google Maps.
[EDIT] My spy network has unearthed more reasons why Virtual Earth sucks.