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NORAD switches from Google to Bing to track Santa

Kids can track St. Nick's progress on the Web with apps and even a Santa Cam

December 19, 2012 11:47 AM ET

Computerworld - Google isn't getting coal in its stocking this year, but Santa's helpers have decided to ditch the popular Google Maps for Microsoft's Bing service.

Once again, on Christmas Eve, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will be tracking Santa's progress as he and his reindeer make their way across the globe delivering presents to children. With NORAD's help, children and their parents can watch Santa's travels and see how close he gets to their house.

NORAD's tracking Santa

After working with Google for the past five years, NORAD is teaming up with rival Microsoft.

On Microsoft's blog, the company noted that NORAD, which has been tracking Santa for the past 62 years, will be using Microsoft Windows Azure cloud computing platform and Bing Maps this year.

Kids also will be able to track Kris Kringle's progress on a Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps. A NORAD tracks Santa app also is available for Apple's iPhone and iPad and Android devices.

NORAD and Google mutually decided to part ways on this project, according to Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis, a NORAD spokesman.

"Google helped us increase the program globally, and we're very grateful for all the support we get from all our partners," Lewis told Computerworld. "We're very happy with them& It's not a technical issue. We've been together for four years. It was a mutually agreed upon split."

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

"This year, nearly 25 million people around the world are expected to follow Santa's journey in real-time on the Web, on their mobile devices, by e-mail and by phone," wrote Capt. Jeff Davis, U.S. Navy and director of NORAD, in a blog that Microsoft posted. "This combination of new and old technologies is essential to helping NORAD keep up with the incredible demand for Santa tracking that grows each year."

Tracking Father Christmas will be a big job for the folks at NORAD and Microsoft.

Last year, for instance, the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center volunteers in Colorado Springs received more than 102,000 calls, 7,721 e-mails and reached nearly 20 million people in more than 220 countries through the NORAD Tracks Santa website, according to Davis.

Two years ago, tracking Santa went mobile. While 2010 wasn't the first time Google had helped people track Santa's big trip, it was the first year they could follow him via their mobile phones, using Google Maps for Mobile. He could also be followed on Twitter by adding @noradsanta.

NORAD has been tracking Santa since 1958. The tracking went on the Web started in 1998.

Starting at 2 a.m. ET on Dec. 24, users can go to the NORAD website to watch Santa make preparations for his flight. Then, at 6 a.m. ET trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa's whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an e-mail to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com.

NORAD's Santa Cams also will stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations throughout the world.

covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at Twitter @sgaudin, on or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed Gaudin RSS. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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