Today sees Microsoft Corp.'s new online local search and mapping service go live – in beta at least. Windows Live Local is its name, and it’s powered by Microsoft's mapping and location platform, Virtual Earth. You get bird's-eye imagery with driving directions, Yellow Pages and other useful stuff. It will be available at local.live.com.

Among the intriguing features available in the new service is a 45-degree bird's-eye view of major U.S. cities that currently include Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, which ends up representing about 25 percent of the U.S. by population according to Microsoft.
Some pretty cool features are present, such as the ability to click on a point on the map and have the system immediately calculate directions for you. You can also get step-by-step directions using bird's-eye or satellite views, and the service also includes an updated version of Location Finder to help people using a Wi-Fi-enabled PC easily determine their current location.