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not useful for end-user activity? I think you'd have to have a fairly narrow view of "useful" for that statement to be defensible.
My son spent an amusing hour this evening driving a Viper aircraft at ground level from SFO to SEA at 390 miles per hour on Google Earth Flight Simulator. He was asked me how to figure out when he got near SEATAC, which gave me an opportunity to tell him to look for the various volcanos in the Cascades, the Columbia River, and to take a 30 degree left turn at Mt. Rainier.
Sounds useful to me, especially considering that huge fortune I spent on Google Earth.
"useful" like "beauty" is in the eye of the beholder. We all know that MS produces loathesome software, stifles innovation, and serves up grilled dolphin steaks with penguin sauce to their droids in the cafeteria in Redmond. And yet, and yet,
I don't, but I have to admit, a lot of people do.
I think Google Earth is cool. I'm not really sure why Google did it, but I'm not yelling at them for doing it.