Google Earth to be linked with enterprise search tools

Google is in early discussions over ways to link its Google Earth products for businesses with its enterprise search devices.

Google's enterprise unit was recently entrusted with the business versions of the snazzy Google Earth mapping products, and executives are already discussing ways to integrate them with the company's enterprise search products, according to a Google executive.

"There's definitely a lot of potential for integration between the Google Earth products and the Search Appliance and the Google Mini. We're starting to look at what might make sense," said Dave Girouard, general manager of the Google Enterprise unit.

Google acquired what are now known as the Google Earth products last year when the company bought Keyhole. The most basic of those products, known as Google Earth, is a free downloadable mapping application with a multiterabyte database of satellite images and a video-game type user interface that lets users "fly" around the globe, zipping from destination to destination, zooming in and out of cities.

Google Earth Plus, which costs US$20, packs additional features such as the ability to import GPS (Global Positioning System) and spreadsheet data, to print in a higher resolution and to annotate maps. Like Google Earth, it is aimed at consumers. Google also uses Google Earth technology on its online mapping and local search services.

The two versions of the product that in recent weeks have been put under the guidance of Google's enterprise unit are Google Earth Pro and Earth Enterprise.

Google Earth Pro ($400) has broader capabilities than Earth Plus for importing spreadsheet data and for printing in a higher resolution. It also adds the ability to measure areas and can be extended with a variety of optional modules, such as the "movie making" module.

Earth Pro is aimed at professionals in industries such as commercial and residential real estate, architecture, construction, engineering and insurance. Meanwhile, Google Earth Enterprise is a server-based version designed to support from hundreds to thousands of simultaneous users.

Google's enterprise unit is still at a preliminary stage of discussions over ways to integrate Google Earth Pro and Google Earth Enterprise with its enterprise search wares Search Appliance and Google Mini, Girouard said.

But Google executives are convinced that building links between the Google Earth business products and the enterprise search devices makes absolute sense, even if the fruits of that integration are still a ways off. "There are some fascinating possibilities in putting together geospatial [applications] and enterprise search," Girouard said.

The Google Search Appliance and the Google Mini are hardware boxes containing Google search software and are aimed at businesses that want to index and make searchable corporate information to employees, partners and clients.

The Search Appliance is costlier and more sophisticated, starting at US$30,000, and can index data stored in a variety of server-based data repositories, such as intranets, public Web sites, relational databases, enterprise business applications, content management software and legacy systems. Meanwhile, the Google Mini (US$2,995) is for small and medium-size organizations that want to make searchable the information in their intranets or public Web sites.

Much of the potential for integration between the Google Earth business products and the Google Mini and Search Appliance will likely come from outside developers who take advantage of APIs (application programming interfaces), Girouard said.

Google Maps, which uses Google Earth technology, has become a favorite playground for external developers, who have created many applications that tap into Google Maps using APIs.

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