This is a companion view; Google's high-resolution graphical mapping is still the default. Keyhole integration into Google Maps has been expected since the company was acquired late last year.
Of course, this is a beta and it doesn't have 100 percent of the functionality of the client software version (nor will it). It offers an interesting, alternate view of locations and will be helpful in certain contexts (e.g., housing search, travel). But I had high expectations and was a bit frustrated that the maps didn't zoom in closer in the two major metro areas I tested (Los Angeles and New York).
There is a novelty/wow factor here, which can't be underestimated in the consumer context. But in the few searches I tried, I actually preferred the "cartographic" maps (the most recent upgrade before keyhole). They were cleaner and more pleasing to look at, subjectively speaking.
I would also like to see Google Maps do the kind of overlay ("Map Nearby") that Yahoo! Maps offers.
Rest assured the product will get better — and so must the mapping functionality on Google's competitors' sites.
Here's the verbatim press release:
In a continued effort to connect searchers with the information they need whether it's across the Internet or in their neighborhood, today, Google announced the integration of Keyhole, a digital mapping service acquired by Google in 2004, into Google Maps. The integration enables Google Maps users to view maps and directions through Keyhole's satellite and aerial high resolution digital photos. The new functionality is also available on the maps shown through Google Local.
The traditional graphical maps provided by Google Maps are still available through the service, as well as, Google Local. In addition, users can now select 'Satellite' mode and see actual overhead views of the area or route they have selected. As with the original Google Maps, the Keyhole maps enable users to zoom in and out, and navigate the satellite and aerial high resolution digital maps dynamically in any direction.
Keyhole will continue to offer its Keyhole 2 LT and PRO software products that provide interactive access to a streaming 3D global database of imagery and mapping information.
Today's announcement demonstrates Google's commitment to helping users find the local information they want. Other recent enhancements include the integration of Google Maps into Google Local, more robust business detail pages that provide reviews and more in-depth business information, and the addition of a link to Google Local on the Google homepage. Google Maps is available directly through Google Labs at http://labs.google.com/ and Google Local is available at http://local.google.com/ or through the "Local" link on the Google homepage.