Microsoft has announced the third release of Windows Live Local service, the company’s online local search and mapping service while at the same time adding support for the UK.

Added functionality this time around includes real-time traffic flow and incident reporting in the US edition, new social networking tools that enable users to save and share their favourite local experiences, and productivity enhancements from extending the Windows Live Local experience into Microsoft Office Outlook and Windows Live Messenger.

Microsoft has said that it plans to add features such as bird’s-eye-view imagery, improved aerial views and real-time traffic to future releases and updates in the UK.

Bird’s-eye-view imagery, also known as oblique imagery, is an image from an angled view taken from a range of 3000 to 3500 feet. The perspective offers the customer a unique view of a given area at superior resolution.

The company has said that it hopes to offer bird’s-eye-view photos that will cover roughly 235 square miles of London in the coming weeks and will expand over time.

As well as appealing to consumers, Microsoft is hoping the new upgrade will also appeal to businesses keen to integrate services into the offering.

“This release is important, as it represents the first time that people can easily capture their rich local knowledge and share it with all Windows Live Local users and the Internet as a whole”, said Stephen Lawler, general manager of the Virtual Earth business unit at Microsoft. “Our geographic expansion and integration with popular communication tools like Microsoft Outlook and Windows Live Messenger also enable us to bring the power of Windows Live Local to many more people than we do today.”

Also being released today is Windows Live Local Add-in for Microsoft Office Outlook. This add-in introduces Windows Live Local mapping capabilities to the Outlook Calendar, enabling Outlook users to find and print maps and directions to meeting locations from within Outlook.

Virtual Earth map control was also released today, enabling developers to bring the same great mapping, imagery and local search capabilities into their business applications and “mashups” (Web applications that seamlessly combine content from more than one source). Virtual Earth map control is available to all developers free of charge for limited use and can be licensed for commercial service and support along with the rest of the Virtual Earth platform components.