Google has released a Mac OS X version of Google Earth, its impressive mapping application.

Google Earth, available as a free download, taps a multiterabyte database of aerial and satellite images to let users "fly" around the globe using a video-game type user interface. Users can also save and share searches, and add notes.

The application can also retrieve local business listings from Google Local for the US, Canada and the UK. It provides detailed road maps for these three countries as well as Western Europe, according to Google.

The Windows version exited beta, or test, status on Tuesday, the same day the beta version for Mac OS 10.4 was introduced, Google said.

Greg Sterling, an analyst at The Kelsey Group, described Mac users as a positive market for Google's product: "Google can port Google Earth to the Mac OS at a relative low cost to themselves in terms of resources," Sterling said. "It lets them reach an influential user population and appear fair and even-handed to Mac users. It's as much a public relations move as anything else."

Google Earth Plus ($20 per year) and Google Earth Pro ($400 per year), which are more sophisticated PC versions of the application, aren't yet available for the Mac.

The Google Earth products are based on applications Google acquired when it bought Keyhole in 2004.