Google Earth comes to the Mac

While most of the Mac community’s eyes were on announcements coming out of Macworld Expo in San Francisco last week, another big product announcement—as big as the Earth itself—came from just down the road at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

Google released a beta of its Google Earth program for the Mac OS X. The virtual Earth simulation software incorporates maps, driving directions, and satellite images with Google Search capabilities. It allows users to zoom and pan over three-dimensional virtual cities and landscapes, drilling down from space to overhead details.

Users can enter in an address or attraction and zoom in from an outer space view for a tight birds-eye view. The software lets you rotate and angle 3-D buildings and terrain features, such as hills and canyons, to be viewed from multiple perspectives. The software also can overlay all sorts of data—everything from hotel and restaurant locations to informative location-based posts on nearby attractions by other Google Earth users;that information displays directly on the maps.

Contrary to some reports, the Mac version includes GPS support. “There are several devices that currently support the Google Earth KML including Garmin devices,” Google spokeswoman Eileen Rodriguez said. “GPS device owners can choose to export their GPS data as KML and view it in Google Earth. Additionally, there are many geocachers creating KML treks. The Geocaching.com Web site also supports the KML format for viewing in Google Earth.”

Google says that Google Earth for the Mac has all the capabilities of the PC version, which was released in beta last June and hit official release status at the same time the Mac beta was rolled out.

However, Google has no definitive announcement as to when to expect Mac versions of its enhanced products— Google Earth Plus, a $20 upgrade that imports data from spreadsheets and has some drawing features, and Google Earth Pro, designed for professional use by realtors, insurance agents, and government employees that can include information such as traffic counts and the National Realtor’s Board shopping center data. Both enhanced products are available for Microsoft Windows.

The free download requires Mac OS X 10.4, a 500MHz processor, 256MB of RAM, and 400MB of disk space.

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