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Google Earth released for free

Next stop, the universe

Google has renamed its Keyhole 2 LT mapping application Google Earth, added several features and made it available for free download.

Like its predecessor, Google Earth is a PC-based application that uses satellite images to render maps, but it is available for free whereas Keyhole 2 LT cost $30 (approx £17) for a one-year licence, said John Hanke, Keyhole general manager.

Google Earth integrates with Google's local index of US, UK and Canada business listings, which means it can mark on a map the location of all sorts of businesses, such as restaurants, bars, pharmacies and banks, a feature not available in Keyhole 2 LT.

Another new feature in Google Earth is its ability to deliver driving directions and overlay the route on the map. Unlike Keyhole 2 LT, Google Earth also has a playback feature that virtually drives the user along the map route.

A version called Google Earth Plus has additional features such as data import and annotation capabilities and costs $20 (approx £11) inc VAT per year. For business use, there is Google Earth Pro, which comes in at $400 (approx £220) inc VAT per year, a price reduction from the comparable Keyhole product which cost $599 (approx £330) inc VAT per year.

Google Earth currently runs only on Windows 2000 and Windows XP and can be downloaded from http://earth.google.com

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