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Seadragon for iPhone. Golly!

Mel Martin

Did hell freeze over? Microsoft Live Labs has released Seadragon Mobile [app store link] for the iPhone/iPod touch. It's free and available now for iPhone and iPod touch, but surprisingly Seadragon Mobile is not currently available for the Windows Mobile platform.

Seadragon Mobile is a viewer, based on very cool Microsoft technology, that allows you to look at gigapixel images while you smoothly zoom in for more and more detail. The app provides some interesting samples like world maps that let you zoom down to photos of your backyard. (Google Maps does this as well, but not this smoothly or rapidly.) You can browse works of art, or explore in detail the structure of galaxies and nebula. It is hard to describe how compelling this process is. You have to see it and use it to get the full effect.

Microsoft is providing Seadragon Mobile as a technology demonstration on the iPhone, and it is clear there is tremendous potential here. Microsoft hints that a person could combine all the digital images they have ever taken, and create a virtual single page that lets you zoom down to the pixel level in any one image. The demo files in Seadragon Mobile demonstrate just that ability.

The release of Seadragon Mobile for the iPhone begs the question: why hasn't it been released for Windows Mobile phones? Our own Christina Warren points out that because Windows Mobile software runs on a multiplicity of hardware, it would be tough to make a general release. On the iPhone & iPod touch, there is one consistent hardware and software platform. Seadragon Mobile also gets quite a boost from the touchscreen gestures inherent in the iPhone that simply can't be done as smoothly on other phones. It's also true that not all Windows Mobile phones have a graphic engine powerful enough to gracefully handle the images Seadragon Mobile delivers.

Microsoft hasn't released a desktop version of Seadragon for the Mac, and Mac owners can't create these gigantic images yet. Making your own deep images requires using either Windows XP or Vista. (Boot Camp should do the trick.)

Seadragon Mobile is a great demonstration of what the iPhone can do, and is sure to get some gasps and gadget lust from owners of other smartphones.

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