The Virtual Earth team has just made a big round of updates to their platform, some of which affect the consumer-facing side of VE: Live Search Maps. One of the updates that I think will be immediately useful has to do with communities. Community-submitted collections are now going to be immediately indexed after uploading so they can be searched instantly. Live Maps will also be using this collections data to further augment business search results when there aren't any business listings that exist for the term you entered. That will definitely be helpful.
I’m also glad to see that they've added the ability to get multi-point directions which is handy when you’re planning a route that has several different stops along the way. However, I'm personally the most excited about the new "landmark hints" feature. I believe that this must have been added in just for me. When I’m going somewhere new, I hate having to look for street signs. Now, thanks to this excellent feature I see "landmarks hints" to help me find my way. Here in the U.S. only, the landmark hints will include things like gas stations, hotels, restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, and car dealerships. So now I'll know to turn RIGHT at the McDonalds, not at some street. Awesome! I'm going to use this new feature today to map my trip to Blogorlando.
The Live Search Maps update also includes several other improvements like better geocoding precision, more aerial updates and bird's eye views (my favorite), updated vector data (roads and places), localized tiles for Western Europe which show place names in the local language, and a lot of other great new features. For the full run-down, check out Chris's blog. In the meantime, I'm off to pack for my trip...and I can finally be happy that this time I won't get lost!