Google Earth + iPad = wow!

Google's latest sofware release is free, easy and breathtaking to use.

Google released version 3.0 of its Google Earth for both iPhone and iPad today. It's free. And it's spectacular. Especially on iPad.

There's something especially thrilling about pinching and zooming and flicking your way around the world on an iPad -- a phenomenon I noticed immediately with the Google Maps app that ships with the iPad. The iPad's direct-touch, immediate response interface is ideally suited for navigating satellite photography. It makes you feel like Zeus or something.

Google Earth for mobile isn't nearly as feature-rich as the desktop version. It does come with a few basic layers, including "Places," "Businesses," "Panoramio Photos," "Wikipedia," "Borders and Labels," "Roads," Terrain" and "My Maps." These are self-explanatory except for "Panoramio Photos," which shows pictures from a Google-owned site for geo-tagged pictures of landmarks, landscapes and scenery.

My favorite of these is Wikipedia. The best use for Google Earth for iPad is simply free-form exploration of the planet. The Wikipedia layer lets you know what you're looking at.

The app also has a "North" button, which immediately rotates the map to make North pointed up. A location button zeros in on your iPad's current location with uncanny accuracy even on the GPS-free version of the iPad. And an options button has bare-bones settings for how to show the position of a location, a slider for turning off Autotilt and buttons for clearing history and cache.

Google Earth is also ideal for demonstrating the iPad to the curious, entertaining children (and adults with child-like wonder about the world) and

Google Earth 3.0 is a must-have application for iPad, in my opinion. It's free, easy and breathtaking to use.

Download the 12 MB app by searching the app store for "Google Earth."

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