On The Map

MapPoint helps your customers keep track of business performance and mobile assets using maps as a framework.

MapPoint is many things to many people. Some tap into its ability to chart data by geographic regions. Others may use it primarily to track assets across a widely dispersed enterprise. Others may use it simply for generating driving directions.

Those many functions fit together well, as the product is actually a set of software, servers and services that all work together to analyze and present geographic data -- all using maps as the presentation medium. Whether your customers plan to use MapPoint as the backbone of a business analysis system, an asset tracking system, or any other application that requires overlaying business data with maps -- they will be better equipped to make more efficient business decisions around resource allocation and management.

MapPoint can answer the questions who, what, where and how much? Microsoft MapPoint 2004 North America comes with sets of demographic data. There is also a set of consumer purchase behavior data customers can purchase as an add-on or that you can integrate into the software to develop a specific customer application. There are several select variables available for different years, so you or your customers can do trend analysis on purchase patterns and other customer behavior.

Microsoft Corp. MapPoint 2004

Release: MapPoint 2004, September 2003; MapPoint Location Server, March 2004; MapPoint Web Service, September 2005

Base Price: MapPoint 2004, $299; MapPoint Location Server, pricing varies by usage; MapPoint Web Service, $8,000 annual access fee

Web Site: www.microsoft.com/mappoint

Drawing and annotation tools built into MapPoint help your customers clarify and add emphasis to the data presented on their maps. They can also save their output to a Web page, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Publisher document. The drawing tools are fairly basic, but customers can use them to draw a quick "freehand" map to provide an overview of corporate facilities, for example. The map annotation tools are more useful. Customers can add highlights to a map for a presentation or to emphasize directions. The annotation tools are in a familiar drawing tools type of toolbar.

After your customers have created and annotated a map, they can add that to a Word file or PowerPoint deck. They can also add maps to Microsoft Publisher documents to generate customized brochures. If a customer wants to share a MapPoint map with others who don't have MapPoint, they can save maps as a Web page. That's also a good way to build some dynamic, drill-down features into a map that they wouldn't otherwise be able to do with a static file.

MapPoint supports Microsoft Access, Excel, Outlook and SQL Server data formats, so your customers can use MapPoint maps in just about any application they choose. They can edit, insert and link maps to other Office applications.

Getting Around
The map set in Microsoft MapPoint 2004 comes from Geographic Data Technology (GDT) and Navigation Technologies (NAVTECH). The U.S. road maps contain more than 6.7 million miles of navigable roads, so your customers ought to be able to find where they're going. They can split the map by six different geographic boundaries -- state, county, metropolitan statistical area, three-digit ZIP code, full ZIP code and 2000 U.S. Census tract data.

Where in the world is your business?
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Figure 1. MapPoint can track business data for regions divided by state, county or ZIP code.

The Canadian version of the MapPoint map is divided by provinces, forward sortation areas (FSAs), census divisions and census subdivisions. The European version is divided by states or provinces, regional administrative area, municipality and postal district.

Once your customers have chosen a map, they can use any of the following features to display what they're looking for:

  • Business listings and points of interest -- There are 1.4 million businesses and points of interest listed in the North American version and 400,000 in the European Edition.
  • Custom and symbolic pushpins -- Your customers can create their own custom pushpin icons, or choose from 316 pre-defined symbols, to mark up their maps.
  • Data mapping wizard -- This will help your customers create maps using their own data. They define the data ranges, legend label and ramp color palette to customize their map's appearance.
  • One-way streets -- The maps are marked with arrows showing the direction of one-way streets, making it easy to find a good route through a city.
  • Driving directions -- The directions combine rapid series of instructions, like several turns in short succession, together on one instruction line.
  • Customized output -- Your customers can print any of five styles of route maps -- strip maps with directions, turn-by-turn maps, directions-only maps, map overviews and full-page maps.
  • Microsoft Pocket Streets -- MapPoint and Pocket Streets will check a GPS unit for location information every second, giving customers real-time GPS capabilities, helping them determine their exact location. Both MapPoint and Pocket Streets now work with a greater number of GPS devices, including any device running NMEA 2.0 or later on COM Port 20 or lower.

Say It with Maps
The business and data mapping features of MapPoint tap into all three components of the product set: the MapPoint 2004 software, the MapPoint Web Service and the MapPoint Location Server. Your customers will be able to present business information on maps instead of traditional bar charts and pie charts, integrate maps into Microsoft Office documents, and quickly use map grids to identify business trends based on their own data or the demographic templates that come with MapPoint.

Sticker fun for customers of all ages!
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Figure 2. Customers can add their own labels to indicate territories or regions.

When used in concert with the Microsoft MapPoint Web Service, your customers can create interactive maps, generate driving directions and conduct proximity searches -- all of which can be integrated into their business processes and presentations. The MapPoint Web Service is a programmable, XML-based Web service hosted by Microsoft that currently supports more than 15 million transactions a day. It provides an extensive set of map-related content and presentation features, including business listings and points of interest, mapping capabilities for integrating location into business solutions and developer tools.

Spotlight Highlights
Key Features
  • Can incorporate live location data from mobile assets
  • Expanded GPS support
  • Updated map set with more than 6.7 million miles of navigable roads

Competition

  • MapInfo Professional
  • ArcGIS
  • OptiMap

Opportunity Assessment

  • Add vertical accelerator for customized, industry-specific solutions
  • Emphasize integration with PowerPoint, Excel and other Office applications

Providing this data through the MapPoint Web Service can help your customers improve communication between geographically dispersed locations, decrease costs associated with call center support and improve customer satisfaction by having easier access to up-to-date, geographically based information. For example, hotels or restaurants could provide the nearest location of all automatic teller machines; a manufacturing company could list all gas stations within a five-mile radius.

Your customers can use the MapPoint Web Service to:

  • Find addresses throughout North America, South America and Europe, using street name, city, state, postal code or intersecting street.
  • Find locations by searching cities, postal codes, states, counties, rivers, lakes, airports, landmarks and other structures without street addresses.
  • List geographic entities associated with a particular coordinate, such as county or designated territory.
  • Find nearby points of interest based on the proximity to a selected location. (MapPoint Web Service includes a database of more than 15,000,000 listings. Your customers can also add their own data.)
  • Store custom databases for MapPoint Web Service applications.
  • Provide optimized driving directions with step-by-step instructions.
  • Render maps in several different styles.

To use real-time location data in MapPoint maps, your customers will need the MapPoint Location Server. This helps both you and your customers connect real-time location data (using standard cellular devices) with mapping and routing information from the MapPoint Web Service. This will help with more efficient tracking and dispatching of mobile assets -- a fleet of delivery trucks, for example. This aspect of MapPoint is particularly helpful for mobile workforces, shipping companies, rental operations and other companies with mobile workers and assets.

Marketing and Sales
As with any other Microsoft product, there's a wealth of sales and marketing help online -- data sheets, demonstrations, newsgroups and other resources. The MapPoint Newsgroups, which can be used both for yourself and as a resource for your customers, are places to ask questions, share experiences or exchange ideas with other users about MapPoint 2004, the MapPoint Web Service and the MapPoint Location Server.

There is also a variety of sales collateral available on the MapPoint sites. You can simply download and distribute data sheets and industry-specific case studies to give potential customers an overview of MapPoint technologies and services. There are overviews of the MapPoint Web Service, sample customer presentations and a MapPoint data sheet.

Besides the more general assistance, there's also a series of Expert Columns. On Chandu Thota's blog, you'll find entries like Map Talk: The Developer Way; Location Matters: Applications of Position-Aware Software; MapPoint 2004 vs. MapPoint Web Service: Which to Use; and Location-based Services: MapPoint Location Server and Global Positioning System (GPS). These columns drill down on a specific aspect or application of the MapPoint software and services. You can steer your customers to these columns if they need help in those areas.

There's also a series of MapPoint Project Guides that can be helpful if you're developing customized applications with MapPoint. The guides cover the following topics:

  • Plan, build and sell MapPoint 2004 fleet tracking and analysis solutions
  • Design, develop and support a tracking and dispatch solution using MapPoint Location Server
  • Integrate driving directions and dynamic maps into applications to help customers find store locations and business assets

Microsoft's Product Integration Program (PIP) is designed to help independent software vendors embed MapPoint 2004 in their own value-added business solutions configured for specific vertical industries. On the MapPoint partner site, you can find a full description of how the program works for licensing MapPoint Location Server and MapPoint Web Services.

Finally, there's a series of demonstrations that can help you show customers in specific industries how they might be able to use MapPoint, including the retail and financial services industries, which cover site location, dispatch and business analysis.

Competitive Landscape
There are a handful of business-mapping software packages, all of which compete with MapPoint on some level. The primary competitors are MapInfo Professional, the extensive family of ArcGIS products and OptiMap.

MapInfo Professional 8.0 has several new data creation and analysis features, including stream digitizing, polygon creation, thematic analysis and an enhanced distance calculator. Each geographical object can store more than 134 million nodes per single polygon. Some of the new work area enhancements include a new find feature, synchronized window, workspace resolver, duplicate row removal and thematic templates that include urban and wilderness areas.

MapInfo users can share their work with others through enhanced Workspace support and extended support for a variety of graphics formats. MapInfo Discovery Connectivity lets users send MapInfo Professional map workspaces to a MapInfo Discovery-enabled server, where anyone with a browser can view published maps. Customers can also install MapInfo on a central computer and give their users remote access via Microsoft Terminal Services or Citrix.

ArcGIS is an extensive family of GIS products that includes Desktop GIS, Server GIS, Developer GIS, Mobile GIS and GIS Web Services. This group of tools is based on geodatabase technology, which represents real-world locations in ArcGIS and stores them in a database. It then uses business logic to access, manage and retrieve the GIS data.

The ArcGIS Desktop GIS software (which includes the ArcReader, ArcView, ArcEditor and ArcInfo tools) compiles, authors, analyzes, maps and publishes geographic information. Server GIS (including ArcGIS Server, ArcIMS and ArcSDE) creates and manages server-based GIS applications to share GIS functionality and data within an organization and to others over the Internet.

The ESRI Developer Network is an annual subscription-based program that provides developers with the necessary resources to build a range of custom GIS solutions. ArcPad (Mobile GIS) is used for data collection and GIS information access in the field. ArcWeb Services (GIS Web Services) helps developers include mapping and location services in Web-enabled applications.

OptiMap 6, from Corda, is a server-based mapping solution that integrates dynamic geographic data for display in a Web browser. Corda offers two versions: OptiMap and OptiMap Enterprise. OptiMap's dynamic maps let customers view business data in real time, use multiple databases, choose from different map styles and variations, create interactive maps with drilldown and rollover features, and can generate Section 508-compliant (technology access standard for the physically disabled) maps.

OptiMap can render images in a variety of standard graphics formats, integrates with any Web application server, and can incorporate text boxes and call-out notes. There are templates available with ZIP codes and U.S. Congressional districts.

The Final Word
Business mapping and business intelligence is becoming a hotly contested space, as more companies vie for the attention of organizations doing business across the country and across the globe. Being able to take business data and anchor it to an easily understandable framework like a map can help your customers tell their story in a clear and compelling fashion.

Microsoft certainly isn't alone in the business mapping category. However, MapPoint is unique in the different functions it fulfills.

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