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Google has launched a downloadable application which lets you virtually travel to anywhere in Canada, the US and the UK.

Google Earth offers pictures of major cities in the UK and US - some of those in the US include the ability to tilt the image to see the sides of buildings.

The maps or images can be overlayed with Google's local information - so you can see an aerial view of your neighbourhood and then overlay bars, hotels or shops. A bubble appears over the relevant spot, like on Google maps, with links to websites and other information.

Paid-for versions Google Earth Plus and Google Earth Pro are also available for annual subscriptions of $20 and $400.

You can also ask for directions between two places and be shown the route before you set out. The free version we looked at works pretty smoothly although rural areas seem covered under a hazy green blanket. It isn't quite up to the real-time interactive globe described in William Gibson's Neuromancer but it's not far off.

In other news T-Mobile customers with internet access on their phones will see Google's homepage as their start page rather than the telco's homepage. It is a move away from the "walled garden" approach where mobile companies tried to restrict websites accessed. The company said current customers complained that mobile internet was "too expensive, too complicated and o too little use. More details on Reuters here

If you're interested you can download the app here.

More info and pictures on the Inside Google blog here®

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