Search giant Google announced on Friday that Google Earth Pro, which was previously available for a staggering $399 every year, is now available for free for everyone to download and use.
In a blog post, Google product manager for Google Earth Pro Stafford Marquardt said people who are interested to use the software will have to request a free key to download and install the software on their computers.
The premium version of its geospatial desktop software was previously targeted at businesses but Google is now aiming at anyone and everyone. Earlier people have used the advanced tools in Google Earth Pro for a variety of purposes such as measuring 3D buildings, printing high-resolution images for presentations or reports, and record high-definition movies for virtual flights around the world.
"Over the last 10 years, businesses, scientists, and hobbyists from all over the world have been using Google Earth Pro for everything from planning hikes to placing solar panels on rooftops," says Marquardt.
Though both the software’s are equally beneficial, the two versions have several major differences. Firstly, the Pro version allows users to print high-resolution images, while Google Earth is limited to printing screen resolution images. The Pro version also permits importing of images that have more than the max texture size allowed by Google Earth.
Additionally, though both versions use the same imagery, only Google Earth Pro has extra tools to create animation videos and automatically track down geographic information system (GIS) images that can only be manually located in Google Earth.
Market analysts and businesses may also find a feature that is useful in Google Earth Pro that allows them access to multiple layers of demographic data. For example, for each state in the United States, Google Earth Pro offers demographic information related to gender, age, education, income and other factors for a specific period.
Lastly, since Google Earth Pro is free now, there are no such barriers to using the software. However, there are a few system requirements. The user must have a PC running on Windows XP or higher or OS 10.6 or higher for Mac users. At least 500MB of storage and 512MB of RAM are required.
In 2004, Google acquired Google Earth as EarthViewer 3D, a project of the CIA-backed Keyhole. The software maps the Earth by superimposing pictures taken from aerial photography, satellite imagery and GIS 3D globe. As of October 2011, one billion users have downloaded Google Earth.