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Pale blue dot.

New Delhi, May 31 -- Google Earth has outgrown its name.

The popular globe-explorer app, a new release indicates, is no longer content with the globe. "When we launched Google Earth in 2005, most of us were still using flip phones. At the time, the thought of being able to cart around 197 million square miles of Earth in your pocket was still a distant dream," Google product manager Peter Birch wrote in an official blog post last week (correct?). That dream was fulfilled when the first Android and iPhone apps for Google Earth appeared on smartphones in 2010. But Google Earth's new release, optimized for the new crop of Android-powered tablets such as Motorola's Xoom or Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Tab 10.1, lets you travel both beyond the Earth into space, and drill down to street-level views and the interiors of certain buildings.

You can now fly by 3D models of famous structures, such as Rome's Colosseum, and view panoramic pictures stitched together from thousands of user-submitted photographs. Pop-ups will bring up location-specific information from Wikipedia. "Moving from a mobile phone to a tablet was like going from a regular movie theatre to IMAX," Birch writes. On a large 10-inch screen, the app does look stunning, and the touch-friendly navigation makes flying to specific places extremely easy.

There's plenty more to come. The desktop version of Google Earth lets you fully explore the surfaces of Mars and the Moon, zoom below the ocean floor and use the program as a flight simulator and a source for historical imagery. With tablets sporting more powerful hardware with every passing quarter, these features should make the jump to the app soon.

Google Earth is available for free download through the Android market or online at Viewing 3D buildings requires a tablet running Android version 3.0, or "Honeycomb".

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Date:May 31, 2011
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