Google unveils 3-D maps, offers offline access


In a small room packed with reporters, Google showed off an odd-looking image of San Francisco City Hall.

"I mean it almost looks like an old clay model, but in this case, this clay model has been sculpted by technology," said Brian McClendon, vice president of engineering for Google Maps.

Technology aboard a fleet of planes either owned or operated by contractors that fly exclusively for Google is helping the Internet giant slowly create a new map of the world in 3-D.

Down on the ground, Google's also mapping hiking trails and ski slopes with a wearable Street View camera.

And soon, wherever your adventures take you, you'll be able to download Google maps to use them offline with no Internet connection.

When launched in a few weeks, offline maps will only be available on Google's own Android platform and not on Apple devices.

Google's marketing blitz comes as the divide between Apple and Google in the map department is widening, and experts say even the timing of Google's announcement was no accident.

"They're trying to kind of set the tone of what a good mapping product looks like," said analyst Scott Ellison. "And so now people will be comparing what Google just said today versus what we expect Apple to say next week."

Ellison is among those expecting Apple to ditch Google Maps and unveil its own map service at the worldwide developers' conference next week.

On Wednesday, Google hinted that its map features missing on the iPhone and iPad are because of Apple.

"We are working very hard to get it on all platforms, and it's really an issue of when that's going to happen," McClendon said.

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