API for Virtual Earth, New Release of MapPoint Web Service Aim to Get More Eyes on Search Engines

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Industry News

API for Virtual Earth, New Release of MapPoint Web Service Aim to Get More Eyes on Search Engines
By Susan Smith

Developers have been awaiting the day when Microsoft would make available APIs for both MSN Virtual Earth and MapPoint Web Service 4.0. That day has now arrived, following closely on the heels of announcements of new developer tools for both Google Earth and GoogleMaps.

Next week at MSN's Developer Conference, new tools will be released that will allow developers to include MSN Virtual Earth and MapPoint Web Service 4.0 capabilities in their commercial applications.



MSN Virtual Earth

“Since the launch of the Virtual Earth beta in June, we've received tremendous response both from consumers as well as developers who want to include the Virtual Earth functionality in their applications,” explained Trina Seinfeld, lead product manager of the MapPoint Business Group. “They want to be able to include the aerial imagery, the pan and zoom and tiling of maps, and the geographic local search capabilities - the what/where boxes, that allow people to search for specific things in a certain geography. So developers were clamoring to have access to those for their applications.” In June, an API was made available to developers, but it only included the map control for the aerial imagery and maps and was only available for non-commercial use.

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“From within MSN, we have our web search API that we make available for non- commercial, an API for MSN Messenger, and we have Virtual Earth API which is really designed to include new map styles and functions in applications,” Seinfeld noted. “The release is an update to the API that also includes the local search capabilities - the what/where boxes - and we're extending the terms of use so developers can actually use the API for commercial applications, completely free of cost.”

Microsoft and its competitors in this space have been challenged to meet developers' demands for a solution for commercial applications. Although the word “free” comes up repeatedly in this dialogue, there is a cost requirement: Microsoft requires that developers include the what/where box, which is driven by their MSN local search, “so it increases our search traffic which we have been able to monetize with advertisements,” said Seinfeld.

Seinfeld summarizes the strategy as “really all about the battle for eyes on search engines. This is the step we're taking to increase the number of people that are using the local search capabilities from MSN.”
- In addition to the service being free, businesses have the opportunity to make money by placing advertisements on their sites in a revenue sharing model.

- If developers and businesses do not want to utilize the geographical local search capabilities or advertising, they have the option to sign a contract with Microsoft that gives them transactions at a low cost and a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for their MSN Virtual Earth-enhanced applications. This is the model used today for MapPoint Web Service

- Additionally, customers can utilize the MapPoint Web Service as their online mapping platform with millions of points of interest, mapping coverage for 27 countries, driving directions, numerous map styles, an SLA for enterprise reliability, and an extranet for uploading custom information.
In addition to the APIs, Microsoft has just launched a Developer Contest for the Virtual Earth API in the hopes of stimulating creative development of applications.

For more on MSN Virtual Earth see GISWeekly, June 6, 2005



MapPoint Web Service 4.0

The second part of the Microsoft announcement heralds the release of the next version of MapPoint WebService 4.0. In that release, there are some key features:
- Support for polygons so customers can create custom areas, whether they are sales territories, or delivery zones for the pizza delivery company to include in a call center type of application
- Real time traffic incidents for about 70 major metropolitan areas, which you can include those in your applications. They include information about severity, traffic flow diversion, expected duration, expected delay.
- Expansion into four new geographies with detailed address information for Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan, so that brings the total to 26 countries
- Support for four new languages, bringing the total up to 14 languages, the latest being: Czech, Finnish, Danish and Norwegian. That includes street names, etc. but also driving directions.
- Three new map styles for customers to use in their applications, the first being line drive maps - modeled after hand drawn directions that only show you the roads you need to get to the destination. A night time map style for customers who create applications that are used on mobile devices or on laptops, so in the night style map, the background of the map is black and the roads are a green color, so it allows your eyes to adjust more easily. The last new map style is static maps for 70 of the major travel destinations, which was a request of some of the travel site customers, where they wanted to give their customers an overview of a city from a geographical perspective.
MapPoint Web Service is purchased on a subscription model where customers purchase the subscription from Microsoft annually at a base price $8,000/yearly for all the above features, plus maps and points of interest information, also including 500,000 transactions. There is also a $15,000 option which includes all the above plus driving directions, that also includes 500,000 transactions. If you want to purchase additional transactions, “buckets” are available that can be purchased on a pricing waterfall.

Developers can purchase through the Microsoft Developer Network. In addition there is an entire MapPoint section which has sample codes, technical articles, and weblogs about what developers can do with MapPoint Web Service. Developers can also get a free developer account for the Web Service, so if a developer wants to write a map or test their application, they can get a free developer account first before committing to a purchase.



Who Can Benefit

Developers who use the Virtual Earth API will find it relatively easy to use, as it is basically JavaScript that can be obtained from the Virtual Earth site. Any developer who is familiar with scripting languages can develop with this API.

The MapPoint Web Service is completely SOAP- and XML-based and is also accessible for a broad range of developers, such as PERL, JAVA and .NET developers.



Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements

GlobeXplorer announced that it has acquired a 100 percent interest in AirPhotoUSA LLC. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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