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Google and Microsoft innovations excite

Microsoft and Google are pushing the boundaries of technology with their latest offering. Interactive maps, Google Gears and the Surface are creating excitement amongst technology lovers.

business Updated: Jun 02, 2007 16:24 IST

Some of the fanciest new technology in the world was unveiled this week at the high-powered All Things Digital conference in San Diego.

But if you really want to experience a sense of future shock, look no further than the nearest Internet browser.

Thanks to Google scientists, you can now use the company's famous interactive maps to get a detailed street view of cities in the US. The view is so detailed that privacy advocates are already squirming in discomfort.

Probably less than ecstatic are the people caught on camera exiting a San Francisco strip club, or a fat lady jogging on a street in Palo Alto, California. As all such sights are in the public domain, legal experts say Google is well within its rights.

The Internet search leader is not the first to debut such a system but its level of detail differentiates it from earlier attempts by Microsoft and Amazon.

For that, Google has to thank a Canadian company called Immersive, which developed a patented, 12-sided camera to take 360-degree shots of streets from atop a Volkswagen Beetle and the software to link all the images together.

So far, Street View is available only for a handful of major US cities. But Google sees it as a key technology to increase advertising revenue via its maps and is set to expand throughout the United States, Asia and Europe.

With another Google technology called Google Gears, you might not even need to go online to use the system. The system allows users to access Internet applications such as Gmail even while offline, by automatically downloading information whenever a web connection is available.

Microsoft is also pushing the boundaries of technology with its latest offering, The Surface, which is a coffee-table shaped computer presented at the D conference by chief executive Steve Ballmer.

The multi-touch computer is reminiscent of a sci-fi system featured in the 2002 Tom Cruise film Minority Report and is meant to dispense with a traditional mouse and keyboard by allowing users to gesture with several fingers at once to manipulate data, from photos to restaurant orders.

With a 30-inch screen, Surface will initially be sold to corporate customers for $5,000-10,000. But technology reviewers point out that traditional keyboards are still the best method for inputting and manipulating text.

Still, they couldn't help but be wowed by the technology, which relies on multiple cameras beneath the table that can see when someone touches it. It recognizes objects based on shape or by using domino-style identification labels on the bottom of the objects.

Technology bloggers were even less impressed with the Foleo, a mini-laptop designed to work with Palm smartphones like the Treo to allow more comfortable email and web browsing. The 1 kg device will go on sale later this year for around $500, and Palm hopes it will bridge the gap between laptops and phones.

Technology guru and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs also unveiled some under whelming new technology - an agreement with website YouTube for its videos to feature directly on Apple's iTV - which streams content from computers to televisions.

The biggest star of the show wasn't a device or invention but a summit between two old enemies who actually turned out to be the best of friends. Jobs took the stage Wednesday night with his old nemesis, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. But those who were expecting the fur to fly got bland compliments instead.

"What Steve's done is quite phenomenal," Gates said, while Jobs returned the compliment. "Bill built the first software company in the industry and that was really huge," he said.

First Published: Jun 02, 2007 12:03 IST