On The Map
MapPoint helps your customers keep track of business performance and mobile assets using maps as a framework.
- By Lafe Low
- March 01, 2006
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.
Corp. MapPoint 2004
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.
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.
[Click on image for larger view.]
|Figure 1. MapPoint can
track business data for regions divided by state, county or
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
- 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.
[Click on image for larger view.]
|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
- Can incorporate live location
data from mobile assets
- Expanded GPS support
- Updated map set with more
than 6.7 million miles of navigable roads
- MapInfo Professional
- 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
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
- Provide optimized driving directions with step-by-step
- 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
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
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.
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
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
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.